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fHE substance of the first chapter of this 
little work, as well as some portions of 
the conclusion, formerly appeared^ in a 
smaller volume, after having been delivered as a 
lecture in the Court-House of Tain in the early spring 
of 1865. The second chapter contains the substance 
of a lecture delivered in the Town-Hall in the autumn 
of 1881, to an audience from which the lecturer 
missed, alas ! many of " the old familiar faces," but 
which included many of a younger generation, who,, 
he trusts, will prove themselves inheritors of the old 
local enthusiasm, and some of whom may yet confer 
signal benefits on their native town. 

The writer has not thought it expedient to divest 
his essay of its original lecture-form, lest the local 
spirit that seemed to make the lectures interesting^ 
to the audiences who have requested their publication 
should evaporate in the process. But as the lectures- 

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iv. Prefatory Note, 

were at first prepared with anxious attention to 
correctness of statement, so now, in revising and 
re-arranging them for the press, their facts and con- 
clusions have been scrupulously re-examined and 
verified, new facts have been here and there inter- 
woven into the text, explanatory foot-notes have been 
supplied, and some longer notes, bearing on questions 
of especial importance or local interest, have been 
placed in an Appendix. References to authorities 
have also been added where this has seemed neces- 
sary. To refer, indeed, perpetually to works on 
general Scottish histoiy, or to such books as 
" Origines Parochiales," or to the writer's own juvenile 
attempt in the " New Statistical Account," or to local 
records, has been thought needless. These and others 
have, however, been carefully examined. One or two 
-of the books to which reference is made the writer 
has had no opportunity of consulting for himself. He 
has therefore to express his obligation to several 
friends, who have most obligingly taken the trouble 
of doing so in his behalf, and even of sending 
him long extracts for his own examination; as well 
as to seversil others — some of whom he names in the 
following pages — who have assisted him in his personal 
researches with a courtesy and kindness which he 
cannot forget. 

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Chapter I. 


jN compliance with the suggestion of one 
or two friends, I have undertaken to put 
together a few jottings on a subject which 
they have deemed likely to interest the 
people of Tain, — ^the old history of our parish and burgh. 
Seeing no reason why my fellow-townsmen should be 
ashamed of this local sentiment, I am not unwilling 
to show that I largely share in it. A feeling of 
special attachment to that spot of earth which is the 
place of our birth, the home of our childhood, the 
scene of our tenderest and most hallowed memories, 
is what no man surely need blush to own. It cannot 


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2 Local Feeling, 

with justice be called an undignified or petty affection. 
If at times it may be found conjoined with what is 
undignified, when men of narrow minds or of very 
limited information exaggerate the importance of their 
own town and of its little community in comparison 
with every other place in the wide world, yet in itself it 
is neither a contemptible nor necessarily a narrow feel- 
ing. In kind, if not in largeness of object, it is the 
very same with that patriotism or love of country 
which most men would deem it an insult to be 
supposed to want ; and it is just the man who loves 
his native town, who feels an intelligent interest in its 
history, and who is ready to do what in him lies to 
promote its welfare, that is most likely to show him- 
self a true lover of his native land, and, should 
occasion call for it, to sacrifice his selfish interests for 
the public good. Even to this we may apply the 
maxim of our divine Lord, that " he who is faithftd in 
that which is least, will be faithful also in much;" 
and we may safely aver that the man who is destitute 
of proper feelings towards his own little town, and 
who neglects his duty towards it, is not very likely to 
prove himself a sincere patriot, worthy to be intrusted 
with the larger interests of his country. I am not 
ashamed, therefore, to avow it as one of my principal 
objects in this lecture to foster in our minds — ^not a 
narrow, but — ^an intelligent affection for the place in 
which God has cast our lot ; and for this purpose to 

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Scantiness of Materials, 3 

ask you to look back with me into the past, to see 
whether that will disclose anything more interesting 
regarding our town, than is to be seen by merely 
walking from day to day through the mud or dust of 
its streets. The extant memorials indeed of our local 
history are sadly few and fragmentary. It is only 
here and there that the cloud of oblivion, which con- 
ceals the centuries of the past, parts for a moment to 
allow some broken rays of light to struggle dimly 
through, enabling us to catch but occasional glimpses 
of the Tain of former days; but some of those 
glimpses are to my mind very suggestive, occasionally 
possessing an interest that, unless partiality misleads 
me, is more than local, and that makes it matter of 
regret that they are so few and so far between. Their 
scantiness and incompleteness, are such indeed as to 
provoke rather than gratify curiosity; yet there is 
enough to enable us without shame, perhaps even with 
some degree of pride, to avow ourselves citizens of the 
ancient and by no means undistinguished little burgh 
of Tain. Nor will these our inquiries into her past 
history be useless, if they excite a livelier interest in 
her future welfare; and if, prompting a warrantable 
ambition in her behalf, and a desire to see her exert 
an influence for good wherever her sons and daughters 
may go in after life, they stimulate persons of public 
spirit among us to devise means for promoting her 
material, intellectual, moral, and religious improve- 

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4 The Begimiing. 

Let me try, then, to piece together as I best can — 
or, if the fragmentary nature of the materials will 
hardly permit this, at least to string loosely together 
on an historical thread — such noticeable facts as I am 
acquainted with regarding our burgh and parish in 
the days of old. Beginning, as we must, in the dim 
morning twilight of Scottish history, our first data are 
necessarily mingled with speculation and conjecture. 
But this is incident to the commencement of all 
histories; and I can only promise, while picking up 
even obscure references to this place wherever I can 
find them, to do my best to discriminate truth from 

The town of Tain can be shown, with a consider- 
able approach to historical certainty, to have existed 
now for a period of at least 800 years ; and its first 
beginnings may have been a good deal earlier. It 
requires an effort both of reason and imagination to 
realize those days of old. We seem, when we endea- 
vour to do so, to be peering into a world of shadows ; 
instead of looking on our own very world, shone upon 
by our own sun, and peopled with living men and 
women of the same flesh and blood with ourselves. 
Nevertheless let us try to form a conception of the 
past. And to give vivacity to that conception, you 
will perhaps indulge me for a little, if I ask you to 
accompany me in fancy to those distant times, across 
the breadth of a millennium, for the purpose of con- 

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The Ancient Scene. 5 

jecturing the probable appearance of the scene around 
us, ere our town began to be built Suppose your- 
selves standing where you now are; but let imagination 
surround you with the circumstances of that ancient 
time by picturing the view as it would present itself 
if this house and all the buildings on every side of you 
were by some magician's wand swept wholly away, 
leaving you, under the sunshine of one of those ancient 
days, with luxuriant nature alone. What do you 
behold? Above you the ancient hill, for which we 
have now no distinctive name, but which our fore- 
fathers called Bengarrick, sloping gradually upwards 
as it still does, but then under its native covering 
of heather, whin, greensward, and wood, not yet 
disturbed by the farmer's plough or the woodman's 
axe. At your feet, looking downwards, you see that 
the gentle slope of the hill is not continued, as it 
possibly was in some old geologic era, to the very 
fihore, but passes, by a sudden change, into a much 
steeper bank, that extends itself far eastwards and 
westwards, so as with long curved arms to embrace 
the lower plain of the Blar-leath, Links, and Fendom 
between it and the sea. This terrace-bank is not 
•quite uniform : you can observe that on both sides of 
the place where you now stand, on your right hand 
and on your left, it has been deeply and widely cut in, 
grooved and scooped away by two winter bums, whose 
^channels mark off this intermediate portion of the 

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6 Encroachment of the Sea, 

bank into a separate blufif or promontory (if we may 
yenture so to call it) formed to be the acropolis of the 
future burgh of Tain. The younger portion of my 
audience will hardly be able to conceive so well as the 
older, in whose youth fewer changes had taken place^ 
what must have been the original sweetness and beauty 
of the spot, before these channels had been either 
bridged, levelled, built over, or in any way defaced 
by man; while tall forest-trees yet rose from their 
verdant sides ; while the face also of the bank was as 
yet clothed with trees and shrubs, not only between 
the bums but beyond them, eastwards and westwards 
as far as the eye could reach, on to and past the lovely 
braes of the LitUe Wood on the one hand, and the 
lower braes that on the other overhung the shrubby 
ranges of the Blar-leath. 

But now look seawards. Many here are old enough 
to have observed, and the venerable survivors of a 
still older generation are even better aware of the fact> 
that the plain on which our town looks down has suf- 
fered great changes within the memory of man. The 
tide which daily ebbs and flows upon our shores is 
annually washing away the sandy banks against which 
it beats, so that a considerable breadth of land has 
been entirely removed. This process has taken place» 
more or less rapidly, along the whole coast from the 
Morrich-m6r to the Plaids, and then on this side the 
river along the Links and the seaward banks of the 

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Denudation of the Plain, 7 

Blar-leath. Some here will distinctly remember when 
the Links in particnlar extended seawards many feet 
beyond their present line, and when a pretty high 
sandy hill, now no more, formed the eastern boundary 
of the Blar-leath. A number of small green islets were 
at low water seen within the water-mark, which have 
wholly disappeared A process of wasting, or, as 
geologists call it, denudation, is beyond all question 
going on. By what cause this is produced I must not 
at present stop to speculate ; but one thing is evident, 
that if it shall continue unchecked for a sufficiently 
long period of time, it must at length carry away the 
whole lands of the Blar-leath, Links, and Fendom, 
leaving to view at ebb-tide nothing but a wide reach 
of yellow sand, to be overflowed twice a-day by the 
blue sea, that will then beat at the base, perhaps high 
up the sides, of the long clayey bank on which we 
stand. So we are compelled to reason in looking for- 
wards. But with the additional light of tradition we 
can reason with even greater certainty in the opposite 
direction — namely, that if the process of encroachment 
which we have witnessed from childhood, and which 
our fathers tell us they too have witnessed from thxir 
childhood, had already begim and was going on in the 
days of our grandfathers, of our great-grandfathers, 
and of still older generations, then the land must have 
once extended very far indeed beyond its present 
boundary out towards the middle of the Firth. It 

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8 Curious Tradition. 

is an interesting question, how far. On the supposi- 
tion that the enoroaohment of the sea has been taking 
place for a thousand years, and on the additional sup- 
position (which, however, I consider to be a more 
<loubtfUl one) that during the whole of that period 
it has done so at the rapid rate which our older in- 
habitants tell us they have observed, then it becomes 
a matter of simple arithmetical calculation that at the 
date when this town was founded, the plain below 
must have extended a mile, two miles, or even farther, 
towards — perhaps quite on to — ^the river-channel of 
the Firth. I am informed that a similar process of 
encroachment has been going on also on the opposite 
coast of Sutherland. Now, there is a curious tradition 
still extant among natives of the Fendom (it would be 
worth while ascertaining whether it is likewise current 
about Dornoch) that long ago the Firth was so limited 
in breadth by the land on both sides, that at one 
place — was it at the Gizzen Briggs ? — it could be, and 
sometimes actually was, bridged at low water by a 
plank thrown across ; or, according to a more pic- 
turesque form of the same tradition, that a man, 
mounting into the branches of an overhanging tree 
on the Koss-shire bank, was able to hand over a parcel, 
tied to the end of a long stick, to a person who had 
waded out from the opposite shore to receive it 
Without committing ourselves to the implicit belief 
of this tradition, the very fact of its existence is re- 


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Not Incredible, 9 

markable ; and I, for one, with the wondrous facts and 
deductions of geology before me, am by no means dis- 
posed to dismiss it as an utter incredibility. Even on 
the supposition that it originated in the imagination 
of some inhabitant of the Fendom, who was shrewd 
enough to speculate on the phenomena which he wit- 
nessed, and w^hose guess was,, in the course of trans- 
mission from mouth to mouth, invested with the form 
of a testimony from previous generations ; yet the cir- 
cumstance that the inference or guess was thus 
accepted by the neighbourhood as a fact proves at 
the very least that it was fact-like, and that in those 
olden days the Firth must have been sufl&ciently 
narrow, and the process of encroachment sufficiently 
evident to the eyes of men, to make the idea a natural 
one that it had once been a mere river that could be 
spanned by a bridge or tree — so natural that when it 
had suggested itself to an ingenious mind, it was easily 
received into the belief of plain unspeculative men. 

The extensive plain which thus stretched out far 
seawards, as well as eastwards and westwards, was, I 
think, also greener, more fertile, and better wooded 
than it is now. Within the memory of even recent 
tradition, confirmed by legal documents, there were 
cultivated farms and pasture-lands in the neighbour- 
hood o? the dreary Morrich-m6r, which have been since 
in part swept away by the sea, and in part overblown 
by the drifting sand (tradition says in a single 

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lo Site of the Town, 

night), and converted into that dismal reach of barren 
downs on which no eye loves to dwell Where the 
tide is now advancing over treeless farms, the stems of 
some great oaks have within the memory of many of 
us been exposed and disinterred. This fact, indeed, 
might be explained without supposing them to have 
grown upon the spot ; but I have been assured on re- 
spectable authority that, even so late as the days of 
our great-grandfathers, one of these oaks was still 
rooted in the deep soil below the sand, and sprouted 
and bore leaves from year to year above the flowing 
tide that washed its trunk ; so that there is some 
reason to think that the now monotonous plain was in 
old ancestral days covered by a noble forest. 

Thus, on the whole, there is little difl&culty in con- 
ceiving that both the site of the town and the 
immediately surrounding neighbourhood were pleas- 
ant and attractive. Even still, though our old trees 
have fallen everywhere around us by the feller's axe ; 
and though the sea has robbed us of many an acre 
that once stretched in greenness along the shore ; and 
though the hand of cultivation, not always controlled 
by good taste, has despoiled our wooded braes of their 
crown of beauty ; and though the sea-sand, following 
hard upon the steps of man, has converted most of 
the low plain into an arid waste; — even still, the blue 
Firth, with the noble background of the hills of 
Sutherland, is beautiful exceedingly ; and the site of 

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By whani Founded? ii 

our town itself, looking up to it from the plain below, 
Ib picturesquely sweet. At that time I do not wonder 
that it attracted the comer's eye, nor that he pitched 
on this particular spot — ^this terrace-brow between the 
wooded bums — ^to be the site of a strong castle of 
defence, or of a central court of law, or of a conspicuous^ 
church, whicheyer it may have suited his purpose first 
to build. 

But by whom was our town founded ? The oldest 
race that within historic times has been settled in 
Scotland was the Celtic, of whom there were at least 
three separate families, speaking kindred but not 
identical languages — ^namely, the Kymric or Welsh, 
who, in Scotland, chiefly occupied Clydesdale and the 
south-west; the Pictish, who inhabited the fertile 
districts along the east coast, including Easter Boss ;. 
and the Gaelic, who, originally immigrating from 
Ireland, had spread themselves over the Western 
Islands and the Highlands strictly so called, and 
pouring down upon these eastern plains, where the 
more civilised and less martial Picts lived quietly 
employed in the tillage of their little farms, carried 
on against them a constant war of plimder, disposses- 
sion, and extermination. But Picts and Gaels alike 
were, from an early date, exposed to the assaults of a 
common foe, not braver, but sturdier and more perse- 
vering than either. These were invaders from beyond 
the German Ocean, men of the Gothic or Teutonic 

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. 1 2 Conflict of Races, 

race, chiefly Saxons from Germany and Norsemen 
from Scandinavia. It was principally the latter who 
invaded this North of Scotland, and with whom, there- 
fore, we have now to do. From the seventh, eighth, 
:and ninth centuries, if not even earlier, down some- 
times even to the twelfth and thirteenth, these Norse- 
men used to come, all unexpectedly, in their ships or 
boats, and, landing on our shores, succeeded almost 
everywhere in overpowering the old Pictish inhabitants 
•of the coast, either driving them back into the hills, or 
forcing them to yield up a share of their most fertile 
lands. Between their Norse and Gaelic spoilers, it 
fared ill with the quiet industrious Picts, who lost, not 
only their possessions, but their distinctive language 
and nationality. We need not suppose that they were 
-altogether exterminated; doubtless their blood mingles 
largely in our veins; but they became blended with 
their more numerous or more energetic assailants, so 
«s to cease to be a distinct people. The Gothic and 
•Celtic races, long after the Picts and Pictish language 
had lost their separate existence, continued their 
istruggle through several centuries, in some parts of 
Scotland one race prevailing, in other parts the other, 
until at length our land was separated into two 
portions speaking different languages — ^the Lowland 
Scotch and the Highland Gaelic. In some districts, 
however, of which Easter Ross is one, neither of the 
two races seems to have at any time completely 

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Etymological Guesses, 13, 

prevailed; both lived, and mingled, and fought, and 
intermarried here: so that we have had two totally 
distinct languages among us from time immemorial, — 
the Celtic, in the successive forms of Pictish and of 
Gaelic ; and the Teutonic, in the successive forms of 
Norse — perhaps Saxon also — modified Scotch, and 
now English. 

Now to which of all these races does Tain owe its- 
origin % We cannot learn much from the name Tain, 
or Thayne, the origin of which is very uncertain. It 
does not appear to be Gaelic : possibly then it may be 
Pictish. The opinion has indeed been advanced, but 
remains to be verified, that it is Norse — a corruption 
of Thing or Ting^ the same word which we find 
appearing also in the first syllable of Dingwall, and 
which in the Norse language signifies a court of law. 
The name, as thus interpreted, would be very charac- 
teristic of the Gothic and Germanic races, who have 
ever been distinguished by their respect for law ; and 
who, wherever they settled, even in those rude and 
bloody times when the rights of their Celtic victims 
were very little regarded by them, invariably established 
courts of law for the dispensation of public justice 
among themselves ; to which courts they gave the 
name of Things or Tings. Such a court, originally 
marked off by a circle of standing stones, we may 
suppose them to have constituted on the conspicuous 
site of this very house where we are this evening 

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14 Former Site. 

-assembled: it would through Easter Ross be known 
tm the Thing or Ting, and possibly by corruption 
might come to be called Tain. The establishment of 
such a Scandinavian court or Ting here may have 
taken place as early as the ninth century of our era, 
or about one thousiind years ago. 

But although the Norsemen may have been the first 
who constituted Tain as a seat of law, yet there is 
some reason to think that there had been a village or 
hamlet, if not on the same spot, yet in the immediate 
neighbourhood, at a still earlier time. There is an 
old tradition that the town was once situated in the 
Fendom. Perhaps we must not interpret this too 
strictly, but content ourselves with assuming that 
some part of the Fendom* was dotted pretty thickly 
over with small farm-houses, so as to form a village, 
before the town proper was founded on its present site. 
There is a circumstance that goes to confirm the tradi- 
tion. Among a good many names of localities in this 
parish, as well as throughout Easter Ross, which are 
neither Gaelic, English, nor Norse, but probably Pict- 
ish, there is one in the Fendom, close by what was 
Invereathie, that is peculiarly significant and suggest- 
ive — Pit-hogarty. This you all know is not English, and 
many of you know is not Gaelic. But if Pit was, as is 
probable, the old Pictish equivalent of the modem Gaelic 

*That part, I am inclined to think, on the Fendom side of our river, 
which was called Invereathie, most of which is now covered by the sea at 
every tide. This name suggests the idea that our "river** was once 
. called Eathie (as a bum near Cromarty is to this day). 

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Christianity in Pictish Times, 15 

JSaile,* and denoted a farm-house or farm-town ; Pit- 
Logarty, translated into the kindred though not identi- 
cal Gaelic, means probably Baile an t-sagairt, PriestV 
town, or perhaps, plurally, Baile nan sagart or Baik- 
^hagart^ Priests'-town ; that is, what we now call the 
manse and glebe, the minister's abode. This is indeed a 
slight indication, which those who are not accustomed 
to etymological and topographical investigations will 
liardly appreciate : still, so far as it goes, it is an indi- 
cation, which, along with others drawn from the early 
history of Christianity in Scotland, leads us to the 
important conclusion that in the times of the Picts, 
while their language had not yet been absorbed into 
its sister Gaelic — ^that is, at least as early as the ninth 
or tenth centuries of the Christian era, before Eomish 
corruption had quite overlaid the more primitive 
Culdee creed and worship — the light of Christianity 
already shone in Easter Ross ; and that, in the now 

* PU, one of the most characteristic words yet ascertained of the lost 
Fictish tongue, occurs in the names of several farms in Easter Boss. 
Those names are for the most part as unintelligible to GaeUc as to Kngllsh 
ears ; but in using some of them the Gaelic people translate pit into 
haUe, while they make no attempt either to translate or understand the 
Test of the word. The position of pit^ always at the beginning and not 
at the end of such names, confirms, on grammatical grounds, the now 
Teceived opinion as to the Celtic affinities of the language spoken by the 
Fictish race. There is no proof that that race called themxdvea Picts ; yet 
the curious fact that the Romans, Welsh, Anglo-Saxons, and Norsemen 
concurred in calling them Picti, Ffichti, Fechts, Fehtar, Fets, &c., leads 
me to conjecture that there was in their language some very common and 
characteristic word, soimding so, which struck the ears of foreign 
±ivader8. I venture the further conjecture that it was the word pit or 
piM, the word so constantly used in the names of their residences, and that 
from it foreigners naturally called the people themselves Pektar, that is, 

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1 6 No Early Local Traditions, 

comparatively desolate Fendom, there was in those 
days a resident priest or minister, and, of course, a 
Christian population to whom he ministered. I con- 
fess I like the thought thus suggested, that the 
Christian appeared along with the civil element from 
the first traceable beginning of our town's existence, 
even has since gone on with it hand in hand. 

But of the particular history of Tain, or of Easter 
Boss, in or before that period, we have not only no 
record, but not even a local tradition. In truth, this 
district is rather singular in its destitution of such 
remains of that early time ; more so than the Western 
Highlands, which have both their Ossianic traditions 
and their Christian Culdee literature; and more so 
than Caithness and the Orkneys, of which the general 
history has on one side at least been preserved in the 
Norse Sagas. This I am inclined to attribute not 
merely to the fact that Norseman, Pict, and Gael 
were during those dismal centuries contending here 
for life and death — ^for the same was true in those 
other districts also — ^but especially to the fact that in 
this neighbourhood no one of the races absolutely 
prevailed. Hence, I think, it came to pass that 
neither Pictish, Gaelic, nor Norse history or tradition 
proved strong enough to outlive, as in many other 
parts of Scotland one or other did outlive, that chaotic 
period of bloodshed and social revolution ; and that it 
is only in the eleventh century that the history of 

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Commencement of Local History, 17 

Tain can be said to commence, when the Norse 
domination in this quarter having come to an end, 
and the province of Moray and Ross, to which it 
belonged, having been conclusively annexed to the 
kingdom of Scotland, it received from King Malcolm 
Canmore its constitution as a free Scottish town.* 

It is for us an interesting fact that the historical 
commencement of our town's existence thus coincides 
in time with what is considered one of the grand 
epochs of Scottish history — the origin of the modern 
kingdom of all Scotland through the union of the 
Highlands and Lowlands under one sovereign, the 
celebrated Malcolm ; as that again was contem- 
poraneous with one of the most important epochs in 
the history of England — the conquest of that country 
by the Norman William. And these coincidences are 
all the more interesting, that they seem not to be 
accidental, but to be connected by the closest ties of 
cause and effect. For it was, in the first place, the 
cruelty of the Norman conquerors of England that 
drove northwards multitudes of the Anglo-Saxon 
families to fill the southern counties of Scotland, 
introducing there a considerable amount of Saxon 
civilisation, and Saxonizing the previously Gaelic 
court ; and it seems, in the next place, to have been 
in a great measure through the additional strength 
brought by those refugees to Malcolm, that he was 

* See Appendix, Note I. 


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i8 Constitution by Malcolm Canmore. 

able, aiter the defeat and death of his rival, the 
famous Macbeth, to pursue his advantage by coming 
northwards with an army to this province (of which 
Macbeth, before his usurpation of the kingdom, had 
been hereditary Maor-mor or Earl), so as to put down 
all opposition within it, and definitely to add it to his 
dominions ; and then, finally, we can understand how 
it would be that when in the province, adopting 
various political expedients for establishing his 
authority, he among other acts granted a constitution 
of civil and commercial freedom to the town of Tain. 

It is not difl&cult, I think, to conjecture some of 
his motives for this step. In those troubled times, 
towns like this could hardly grow up by the 
spontaneous development of trade without external 
protection and aid. In the unsettled state of society, 
not to speak of the hostility of races, the quiet trader 
was afraid to show any tokens of increasing wealth, 
-was often afraid even to have any : for if he remained 
at home, he was exposed to the predatory raids of 
savage hordes ; or if he travelled about with his 
merchandise according to primitive custom, he was 
liable to be murdered or plundered by the way ; so 
that he would in many cases be fain to purchase 
personal safety, and exemption from robbery, by 
payment to the neighbouring chiefs of whatever 
portion of his gains they might, under the name of 
tolls or black-mail, choose to exact. This was an evil 

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What were his Motives 1 19 

«tate of things, not for the trader alone, but for all 
who wished to deal with him. It would therefore be 
A real boon to the whole country for many miles 
around that a stronger and impartial power should 
interpose to constitute a free town in a convenient 
locality. The King may have had special reasons for 
selecting Tain for this purpose. On Malcolm's side, 
fighting with him against Macbeth, had been the head 
of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in 
the north of Scotland, Munro of Foulis.* These 
Mimroes seem, from their beginning, to have culti- 
vated the closest connection with Tain and Easter 
Ross, rather than with Dingwall, which lay, indeed, 
:geographically nearer to their residence, but which 
was under the influence of their feudal enemies ; so 
that, down even to comparatively recent times, they 
continued to acquire additional land on every side 
round this town, until it came to lie nearly in the 
centre of their scattered estates ; even as on the other 
hand Tain has been reciprocally influenced in the most 
important respects during the whole course of its 
history, by its connection with these Munroes. I 
think it, therefore, possible that the men of Easter 
Ross may have gone, under Munro's leadership, to 
battle in Malcolm's behalf against Macbeth; and 
that, by way of reward to them, as well as with 

* See MS. Oenealogical Account of the Munroes of Foulis, of which 
■several copies exist in this neighbourhood. 

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20 A Useful and Politic Act 

a political object of his own, the victorious king 
granted a constitution of freedom to our town. He 
would thus confirm the authority of the local court ; 
would make the inhabitants, within a circuit or girth 
of several miles, free from feudal authority — ^from all 
authority, in fact, but that which sprang from the 
Crown, and would assure to them the liberty of buying 
and selling, wherever they pleased, on the sole 
condition of paying the usual taxes to the king, thereby 
conferring a benefit which was manifestly fitted to 
confirm the attachment of the people of Easter Rosa 
to his cause, and to strengthen his power in the whole 
north. Being himself in the province, he not impro- 
bably visited the spot, saw the somewhat striking 
situation of the village, the Ting, and in all likelihood 
also the Church, which he found already here; and 
both on that account, and because of its position on 
the coast, between the fertile plains of Easter Ross on 
the one hand, and the wild Highlands of Kincardine 
and Sutherland on the other, pitched upon it aa 
suitable for his purpose.* 

But there was another reason why Malcolm should 
take notice of this place. Tain has, from the earliest 
date to which we can trace its privileges, been not only 
an inmiunity and municipality, but what was called a 
girth. Now, that was a significant appellation in 
ancient: days, indicating the possession of important 

* See Appendix, Note II, 

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The Girth, 21 

privileges based on religious motives. It meant a 
territory that, by favour of some particular saint, 
€njoyed the right of sanctuary ; that is to say, a right 
claimed for it by the Church, and conceded to it by 
public opinion and practice, of receiving fugitives, and 
of protecting them, as long as they remained within 
the privileged bounds, from all violence, and even 
(unless in some excepted cases) from the arm of the law. 
Our burgh owed this distinction to its connection with 
a once very celebrated saint, who, there is reason to 
think, died a few years after the accession of Malcolm 
Canmore to the Scottish throne. I formerly used to 
receive without question, and indeed adopted in 
printed statements, the common opinion which placed 
his death nearly two centuries later, in the reign of 
Alexander III., although I was very sensible of the 
difficulty of reconciling that date with the earliest his- 
tory of our town, which it rendered an inextricable 
puzzle; but now that, through a discovery made 
{strange to say) in Ireland, a holy and eminent Scot- 
tish man of the very same name has been ascertained 
to have died in Malcolm's reign, I am constrained, 
provisionally at least, to adopt the opinion of the 
Irish scholar to whom the discovery is due, that the 
two men are but one, and giving ftdl weight to what 
I feel the almost irresistible historical reasons for 
rejecting altogether the previously received date, 
I conclude the earlier date to be the true one.* 

* See Appendix, Note III. 

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32 Sf Duthach. 

It was, let me now therefore assume, about eight 
centuries and a half ago — that is, not far on either 
hand from the year of our Lord 1000 — ^that there waa 
to be seen, on a sandy hill below our town, where the 
ivy-clad ruins of the old chapel at present stand, a^ 
dwelling-house, in which was bom a child who was 
destined in after years to become very famous. 
Duthach or Dubhthach was his name.* The legends 
say that his parents were of high rank and of great 
piety, so that they placed their son for instruction in 
divine things under the best masters they could find ; 
and that the boy showed such tokens of pre-eminent 
piety in early youth, that God even then wrought 
miracles in his behalf. The curious story is told, that 
when he had been sent on one occasion by his master 
to a smithy to obtain some fire, the smith took up a 
quantity of live coals with his tongs, and in Satanic 
mockery placed them in the lap of the pious boy; who, 
meekly bearing the insult, carried home the burning 
fuel without injury to his clothes or to himself So 
much for a specimen of the legends. But a comparison 
of the simpler biographical statements that accompany 
these Scottish legends with the plain facts recorded in 

* The sound indicated by this cumbrous Gaelic orthography seems to- 
have been uttered variously even by Gaelic tongues— Duvhach (Duf ach), 
or Puhach (Du'ach) ; and by others has been corrupted into the strangely 
divergent forms of (in Latin) Duchasius and Duthacus, and, in English, 
of Duflty, DoflBn, I>uffus ; Ducho, Duchow ; Dutho, Duthow, Duthac, 
Duthus : the last of these (though a purely mistaken use of the possessive 
case Dutho's as a nominative) being now the commonest English, aa 
Duffy is the present Irish, and Du'ach the present Gaelic pronunciation. 

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by Google 

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His Life and Death. 23 

Irish annals, makes it appear that in early life he 
crossed the channel to pursue his studies in Ireland. 
He was induced to do so, we must suppose, by the 
high reputation which that country for some previoua 
centuries had borne for its religious light and learning 
under the comparatively scriptural system of Patrick, 
and which it still bore even so late as the eleventh 
century, ere that system had been buried under the 
mummeries of superstition, or the legends of the 
breviaries substituted for the Word of God in the 
education of its priests. He there acquainted himself 
with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, 
and obtained such an accurate knowledge of their laws 
and precepts, and such a reputation for piety, that he 
subsequently became the chief confessor of Ireland and 
Scotland — not, I think, hearer of the confessions of 
men, but the chief confessor of Christ, perhaps the 
chief preacher of the Gospel, wherever the Gaelic 
language was spoken.* There is no trustworthy 
evidence to bear out the later attribution to him of 
the rank of Bishop of Koss ; neither need we credit 
the legends of his alleged miracles ; but he continued 
through life to bear the reputation of being " a very 
godly and learned man ;" and he finally rested from 
his labours at Armagh, on the 8th day of March, 1065. 
His last words, says a legendary narrative, which may 
here have caught up a true tradition, were these : — 

* See Appendix, Note III. 

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24 Translation of St Duthach!s Remains, 

Quce est expectatio mea ? nonne Dominvs ? — " What 
wait I for now, but for Thee, Lord ?" There is no 
distinct evidence to inform us whether Tain, his native 
place, was also the scene of his ordinary ministrations. 
This is not impossible. But it is also possible that he 
had no fixed residence; that his ministry was an 
itinerant one, extending over large portions of Gaelic 
Scotland and Ireland ; so that, when he died, the only 
place which could show a special claim to possess his 
earthly remains was his native town of Tain. Hither, 
accordingly (when two centuries of superstition had 
gathered a halo of more questionable sanctity around his 
name), his remains were ''translated" on the 19th day of 
June, in or about the year 1253. This date is given 
with such apparent precision, though by a compara- 
tively late and legendary writer, that it may have been 
originally derived from authentic records ; at all events 
there seems to be no reason to question its correctness; 
and it serves to explain how, by a very natural misiake, 
the recorded date of the saint's " translation, " or 
second solemn burial, may have come to be regarded 
as the date nearly of his death, and so how his death 
came to be transposed from its proper place by 
two whole centuries. Thus, at least, we obtain a 
consistent narrative, and the mystery both of St 
Duthach's life and of our town's history is thoroughly 

It is to us a very interesting narrative. In the 

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His Reputation, 25 

first place, it brings out into the light of day the 
existence, character, and doings of a man with whose 
name we have been familiar from childhood, and yet 
of whom we knew so littfe that we could think of him 
but as a shadowy myth. It gives us some solid 
reasons for thinking, that if he was not what later 
legends made him, he was something greater and 
better — better than a worker of miracles, and greater 
than a lordly bishop ; that he was a true man of God, 
and a witness for Christ; perhaps that he was the 
Gaelic evangelist of his age — (shall I say it?) the 
Gaelic Whitfield, or the John Macdonald, of the 
eleventh century; a man of whom we need not 
scruple also to believe that his prayers had really 
power with God, and whose special requests may have 
obtained such evident answers from above, that it was 
natural for an admiring people, not given to draw dis- 
tinctions, to ascribe to him the gifts of miracles and 
prophecy. I have sometimes indulged the fancy that 
we have still among us, in the familiar name of one of 
our localities, a memorial of the saintly reputation 
which he bore even in early youth, while he yet re- 
sided in his parental home ; that even then his devoted 
piety and his manifest communion with heaven, caused 
it to be said that angels had been seen encamping 
round the place of his abode ; so that the awe-stricken 
people gave to the spot where the vision was supposed 
to have appeared, the name which from time imme- 

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26 Origin of Local Privileges, 

morial it has borne in both our languages, of (7«oc- 
nan-aingealy the Angels' Hill.* 

We can now, then, understand the origin both of 
the Gaelic name of our town — ^the only Gaelic one it 
is known to have ever borne — and of its peculiar 
ecclesiastical character. Malcolm was for some years 
of his reign contemporary with Duthach, and when in 
this province, may very possibly have met with the^ 
venerated man, and been aided by his counsel and 
prayers. At all events, as it cannot have been many 
years after the saint's death that Tain was consti- 
tuted as a free municipality, it was natural that 
the Gaelic-speaking king (Malcolm is said to have 
been the last of the kings who usually spoke Gaelic) 
should give it, in honour of the famous man who had 
had his origin within it, the Gaelic name of Baile- 
Dhuthaich or Duthach's-town. It is intelligible, also, 
that for the same reason (as well as perhaps in 
deference to his pious but somewhat superstitious, 
queen, Margaret, by whose advice he was not only 
founding churches but introducing Papal customs and 
authority into Scotland) he procured for it the special 
" protection of the Apostolic See," and the consecration 

* This name appears in our oldest local records, and was in common 
use until, in 1868, railway operations cut right through the hUl. Fortu> 
nately the necessity of erecting a bridge at the spot has preserved the 
memoiy of the exact locality. It is noteworthy that a hillock in the 
far-famed lona bears the very same name, given it (tradition says) in 
commemoration of an interview which St Columba had with a company 
of heavenly visitants on his arrival in that island. 


by Google 

Right of Sanctuary, 2f 

of its whole territory, marked by four girth-crosses,, 
into a place of asylum or sanctuary.* 

Of such a right of sanctuary there is no need in 
the present day; ,and if it existed now, it could do 
almost nothing but evil. It would tend to convert 
our town and parish into a receptacle of thieves and 
dishonest debtors, of vagabonds and criminals of every 
kind, seeking to shelter themselves from the pursuit 
of law. But in those lawless times, when might was 
often held to constitute right — when the sword of 
justice was grasped in a hand often too feeble to wield 
it with effect against the strong oppressor — ^w^hen the 
oppressed cried out, and even the long arms of the 
king often failed to reach far enough for his defence — 
it was well that there was another power, weaker and 
yet stronger, to which the injured or the timid could 
appeal with frequent success. Almost the only effec- 
tual motive that could be brought to bear on rude and 
violent men who feared no earthly foe, was that of 
religion, or of superstition ; those who did not fear the 
king, might have some fear of God, — if not a truly 
religious, yet a superstitious fear of Him, and of the 
Church which claimed to wield His power. A guilty 
conscience, also, turned even brave men into cowards 

* The fact, however, that a copious foimtain of pure water situated 
on, or nearly on, the girth boundary in the heights of the parish— <the same 
fountain which has now been utilised for a supply of water to the town)— 
has from time immemorial borne the name of St David's well, suggests 
the inquiry whether the donation and consecration of some at least of the 
lands was not due rather to Malcolm's son, David— that "sair saimt. 
to the Crown," 

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28 operation of the Privileges, 

in places which were supposed to possess peculiar 
holiness; so that only a few exceptionally reckless 
men dared to follow the victims of their oppression 
within the limits of a consecrated girth. The union, 
therefore, of the sacred with the civil element in the 
constitution of our town must, in such times as those, 
have greatly enhanced the t3enefit conferred by King 
Malcolm and his successors, both on it and on the 
•surroimding district. 

I have dwelt rather long on these investigations 
into the origin of our burgh and its privileges ; but 
they are evidently of primary importance, and furnish 
the necessary key to the understanding of what we 
know of its history for several subsequent centuries. 

We can easily imagine that the combined advan- 
tages which have been mentioned would operate in 
the following centuries to give it importance and pros- 
perity. As the market-town and centre of trade for 
u large district, as a seat of magisterial authority and 
law, as a place of considerable ecclesiastical import- 
ance, a resort of pilgrims, and a sanctuary of refuge 
for the distressed, it would not only obtain a per- 
manent population of its own, but would besides 
attract many visitors from the surrounding neighbour- 
hood. Persons who wanted either to sell or to buy ; 
those who had suffered wrongs for which they desired 
legal redress \ those who wished to transact legal 
business with each other, or to execute any legal 
deeds; nay, even feudal enemies, jealous of one 

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Paul MacTyre, 29^ 

another, wlio wished to confer on neutral ground 
and under the protection of the Church's sanctity, 
found what they wanted here. Thus to some extent, 
within its own limited sphere, the town would offer to 
the landed gentry around, and to their families, the 
sort of social attraction that, in our days of centralisa- 
tion and rapid travelling, draws them to the great 
cities of the south. Nor would the tendency to resort 
to the town be diminished, but rather increased, as, 
through growing civilisation and the softening down 
of hostilities, the country gradually passed into a less 
disturbed state. Men could with greater security 
come to it so as to avail themselves of its advantages ; 
and yet there continued for a long time to be disturb- 
ances and oppressions enough to make those advan- 
tages welcome and important. For the country was 
not wholly rid either of Norse invasions, of Highland 
raids, or of terrible domestic oppressors, for several 
centuries. Even so late as the fourteenth century, 
there was a notorious brigand chief in this neighbour- 
hood (the grandson, it was said, of a Norwegian 
invader of royal rank), who made himself a name of 
terror as the Kob Roy of the north. He was called 
Paul MacTyre. An old chronicle* quaintly describes 
him as "a very takand man ;" takand, that is \x> 
say, not in the sense of being attractive, but in 
the sense of taking away by force men's goods and 

* Chronicle of the Brlis of Roes. 

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30 Paul MacTyre, 

oattle and, lands ; so that he made himself master of 
the most of Sutherland, and of Kincardine in Ross- 
shire. . So powerful did he become, that the family of 
Balnagown appear to have been fain to give him a 
daughter of their house in marriage, and, along with 
her, a legal grant of the lands in Kincardine which he 
had already seized, probably in order thus to preserve 
their remaining property, and to secure exemption 
from his hostile raids. From his Highland fastnesses 
it appears to have been his wont to lead down his 
armed followers upon the plains for plimder. The 
people of Caithness, accordingly, were obliged to 
purchase his forbearance by an annual tribute of 
black-mail ; and if we may reason from the name of a 
spot on the Fendom shores, known as Paul MacTyre's 
Hill, which, until swept away by the sea in the course 
of last century, used to form one of the stated halting- 
places in the magistrates' periodical perambulation of 
the marches of this bui^h, it would seem that our own 
neighbourhood was not unfavoured with his question- 
able visits. Situated just at the limits of the girth, 
the hill I have mentioned may possibly have been 
the site of one of his encampments and the limit 
of his spoliations; within which, across the sacred 
line, even he perhaps durst not venture to carry 
war. There was, indeed, in those days, a powerful 
Earl of Ross (sometimes resident at Delny in our 
neighbourhood, and occasionally perhaps even in this 

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Local Oppressions, 31 

town,* though generally in his castle at Dingwall), who 
possessed power and authority in the north only second 
to the king's, and to whom the oppressed might 
j)ossibly appeal ; but the Earls of Ross seem to have 
l>een themselves sometimes the chief oppressors. You 
-doubtless remember the well-known story told of one 
of them, and which is true at all events of some Ross- 
shire chief, who, when a woman whom he had injured 
threatened to go to complain to the king, nailed horse- 
shoes under the soles of her feet, in order, as he told 
her, that she might be better able to perform the 
journey. So that, to the extent to which men stood 
in awe of the sanctity of St Duthach's girth and 
shrine, in which the people of the town could defend, 
«,nd the influence of the Church vindicate that 
sanctity, it must have been a welcome shelter for the 
trembling fugitive. 

Let me illustrate these remarks by narrating 
Tmefly three notable instances in which our town was 
resorted to as a sanctuary of refuge — ^the only 
instances, in fact, of which the record has come down 
to us out of the many which must have occurred 
•during the five centuries of the existence of this 

In the days of King Robert Bruce, the restorer 
of Scottish independence, and in the year 1306 or 
1307, when his fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and 

♦ Farquhar, commonly called first Earl of Ross, died in Tayne in 
1251.— (Chronicle of the Earls of Boss.) 

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32 Fugitives to the Sanctuary. 

he was obliged to conceal himself in a small island off 
the coast of Ireland, his queen and daughter betook 
themselves for safety to the Castle of Kildrummy in 
Aberdeenshire ; but, dreading to be besieged there by 
the forces of Edward I. of England, they fled with the 
ladies of their Court, and with attendant knights and 
squires, to the sanctuary of St Duthach in Tain : 
unhappily to no purpose; for the locally powerful 
Earl of Boss, who was on the English side, un- 
scrupulously violated the sanctuary by seizing the 
fugitives and surrendering them into the hands of 
Edward. The lamentable issue T may give in the 
words of the old Scottish poet : — 

" The quene, and als dam Marjory, 
Hir dochtir that syn worthely 
Was coupillit into Goddis band 
With Walter Steward of Scotland, 
That wad on na wis langar ly 
In Castell of Kildrummy 
To byd ane siege, are ridin rath 
With knichtis and squyaris bath, 
Throw Ros richt to the girth of Tane ; 
But that travele they mad in vane, 
For tha of Ross that wald not here 
For tham na blam na yhat danger, 
Out of the girth tham all has tane. 
And syn has send them evirilkane 
Richt intill Ingland to the King, 
That gert draw all the men and hing. 
And put the ladyis in presoun — 
Sum into castell, sum in dungeon." 

No honourable deed this to tell of. Let us only hope. 

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Mowat of Freswick, 33 

that as we know the powerful Earl of Ross was by no 
means always on friendly terms with our townspeople, 
nor generally on the same side of politics with them, 
this act of violence and sacrilege was committed by 
him, not in accordance with, but against their will.* 

We must leap over more than a hundred years to 
the next recorded incident, which, if less celebrated in 
the history of our country, was more important in 
relation to our local interests. In or about the year 
1427, in the reign of James I. of Scotland, Mowat, the 
Laird of Freswick in Caithness, with some followers, 
was defeated in a hostile encounter by Thomas McNeil 
of Creich — a barbarous chief, who seems to have held 
some of the same lands in Sutherland and Boss that 
had in the previous century been held by Paul 
MacTyre, and to have been also a follower of that 
notorious brigand's steps. Mowat and his compMiions 
fled for refuge into St Duthach's chapel at Tain; 
whither, however, they were pursued by M*Neil, who 
slew the poor fugitives and set fire to the chapel — 
actually burning it over the heads of the still living 
men, if our local tradition speaks true. The double 
outrage on God and man was not allowed to pass un- 
avenged. James, the poet-king, had at this time 
undertaken the arduous and dangerous task, to which 

* The luunes of many officials in the north who swore fealty to 
Bdward are preserved in English records : I have not seen mention made 
of any one connected with Tain. Munro of Foulis fought under Bruce at 
Bannockbum ; so did the Earl of Boss himself, who had, ere then, been 
reconciled to Bruce. 


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34 Lord Crichion. 

he subsequently fell a martyr, of repressing and 
punishing the cruel oppressions with which the chiefs 
and nobles had filled Scotland during many years, and 
which, during his long minority and captivity in 
England, had come to tte most fearful height. After 
having administered stem justice in the south, he 
came, about a year after the burning of our chapel, 
to hold a Justice-ayre at Inverness, with the like pur- 
pose. Forty robber chiefs were arrested by his order 
and brought before him there ; some of these were 
executed immediately, others a little later. Of these 
last, Thomas M*Neil appears to have been one. The 
chief agent in efiocting his apprehension was his own 
brother Neil, whom the King, for this service, invested 
with the deceased rebel's lands. We do not like the 
brother's act ; yet it was a striking instance of retri- 
butive providence, as against the man who had 
violated the most sacred feelings both of humanity 
and of religion.* 

The remaining case is of a different kind. William 
Lord Crichton, a man of high influence in the reign of 
James III., was accused of treasonable correspondence 
with England. Fearing for his life, he in 1483 took 
refuge within the girth of Tain, residing in the vicar's 
house. He was followed by a macer, who, in the pre- 
sence of William Johnstone, a bailie of Tain, and of 
Thomas Reid, a bailie of Cromarty, summoned him to 

* Sir Thomas Gordon's "History of the Family of Sutherland 
•" Origines Parochiales." 

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The Memory of Good and Evil, 35 

appear in Parliament, at Edinburgh, to answer for his 
treason — summoned him, but did not, because I pre- 
sume he durst not, even in the King's name, lay hands 
on him to bring him prisoner to Edinburgh ; for the 
fugitive was protected by the sanctity of the girth. 
He did not obey the summons of Parliament; and 
was accordingly next year subjected for non-appearance 
to a sentence of outlawry and forfeiture of his estates. 
But his life was safe. He seems to have continued to 
reside several years in Tain ; he subsequently went 
to Inverness to meet the King, and was partially re- 
conciled to him ; but apparently he died in poverty.* 
Each of the three instances which I have men- 
tioned of the employment of our town as a place of 
refuge was of public interest and importance ; though 
two of them, at least, are far from being such 
cases as we would have selected, had we a choice, in 
illustration of the ordinary beneficent working of the 
institution. But we must be satisfied with those 
which have been handed down to us. The great 
dramatist has said that " the evils which men do live 
;after them — the good is oft interred with their 
bones;" and so, indeed, it happens, that history far 
«eldomer notices the many quiet deeds of usefulness, 
either of men or of communities, that take place from 
year to year, than it does the rarer outbreaks of horrid 

* Reg. Mag. Sig. 

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36 The TowfCs Charters Burnt 

The loss of the chapel was not the only nor chief 
one that our town sustained on the second of those 
occasions. A comparison of circumstances makes it 
highly probable that in that disaster the most ancient 
charters of Tain were consumed — ^probably because 
the chapel had been selected as the safest repository 
for such important documents, so that along with it 
they perished We are told expressly in a charter of 
renewal of privileges granted to the burgh more than 
a hundred years afterwards by King James VI., that 
the ancient charters and infeftments of the burgh had 
been burnt "by certain barbarous rebel subjects of 
Ireland " — ^which may probably mean rebel subjects of 
the race that had immigrated from Ireland, and that 
spoke the Irish or Erse language — a sufficiently correct 
description of M*Neil and his followers. The loss to 
our town must have been, in those days, a very great 
one ; and it was followed very soon by attempted 
iQvasions of her rights; as it has led, at diflferent 
times, to an interested questioning of the high 
antiquity of her municipal claims; indeed, she has 
suffered very recently, and suffers still, from the same 
cause. It was found necessary very soon to attempt 
to remedy the loss. Twelve years after its occurrence 
— namely, in the year 1439 — ^there was summoned to 
meet at Thayne, under the seal of Alexander, Earl of 
Ross (at that time the King's Justiciary for all 
Scotland north of the Forth), a jury of the highest 

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Rivalry of Towns, 2^1 

names in Inverness, Boss, and Sutherland, to hold an 
inquisition into the rights and privileges of the town. 
The jury, in a document of which an ancient notarial 
copy is still extant, declared it as their finding, after 
careful investigation, that the town of Tain was under 
the special protection of the Apostolic See, and that it 
had been founded by Malcolm Canmore, and confirmed 
by King David Bruce, Robert II., and Robert III. in 
all the rights of a free trading town — which rights the 
document siunmarily enumerates. It was not merely 
the violence of the age, but apparently also, and 
chiefly, the jealousy of rival trading towns that had 
rendered this inquisition necessary, and that deter- 
mined the points to which the jury's attention was 
specially called, as well as their omission to notice 
other burghal rights which no one probably had 
attempted to invade.* Curiously enough, some of the 
free towns had begun to interpret their charters as 
conferring on them not merely the liberty but the 
monopoly of trade, and that not only within their own 
proper bounds, but within the wide district that they 
thought should depend on them. It appears that the 
burgesses of Inverness, considering their town to be 
the capital of the North, asserted something like an 
exclusive right of trade even in Easter Ross \ and they 
made a curious attempt to enforce this pretension so 
late as the year 1458, in the reign of James 11. of 

* See Appendix, Note I. 

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38 Dispute with Inverness. 

Scotland, when the alderman, bailies, and community 
of Inverness, complained to John, Earl of Boss, that 
certain inhabitants of Tain and other northern parts 
of thdr freedom of Inverness, were interfering with 
their trade by buying and selling, shipping and 
unshipping goods. The Earl (who not only, as we 
have seen, at that time exercised supreme jurisdiction 
in the north under the King, but who sometimes did 
so in defiance of the King, and who, if he was then 
meditating the treasonable practices that subsequently 
cost him his earldom, may have had his own reasons 
for wishing to please his " neighbours of Inverness" at 
the expense of a less important town) addressed a 
threatening letter to his bailie of Tain, commanding 
him to give all facilities to any burgesses of Inverness 
who should come to Tain, to use the King's authority 
for the "inhalding" — that is, for preventing the 
exportation — of merchandise and goods. This strange 
attempt was all the stranger that it was made in 
defiance or forgetfulness of the inquisition into the 
privileges of our town which had been made only 
nineteen years before by authority of this earFs own 
father ; and we may be pretty sure that the merchants 
of Tain did not submit quietly to the demands of the 
men of Inverness, nor fail to produce and plead the 
above-mentioned inquest and its result. I suspect, 
however, that the people of Tain, in their dealings, 
with their own neighbours, were just as much disposed 

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Chapel of St Duthach. 39 

to exaggerate their privileges as the Invemesaians 
themselves ; that they, too, claimed and sometimes 
enforced the right — at least in Easter Ross — of 
preventing the ,sale of goods except in Tain or by 
Tain-men. I do not suppose that this was a serious 
hardship to almost anybody ; for it was really so 
difficult, if not so unsafe, in those early times, for 
persons not armed with authority, to carry on com- 
merce outside the circuit of privileged towns, that 
they probably seldom thought of attempting it ; and 
it was, moreover, so important for the whole country 
that the towns should flourish and be strong, that the 
benefits of the system greatly outweighed its attendant 
evils. Yet, such a state of things could not con- 
tinue for ever; and the people of towns like this 
must now submit to general competition, and depend 
for the success they may achieve on their own 
superiority in the open arena of commercial enter- 

Of the original building of the old chapel of St 
Duthach, which perished in the disaster of 1427, and 
whose walls have stood roofless and weatherbeaten for 
upwards of four centuries, we have no record. I do 
not suppose it was ever a parish church : had it been 
so it would almost certainly, in accordance with a 
mediaeval superstition (not yet obsolete) have stood 
due east and west, and been furnished with a window 
looking eastwards ; neither of which is the case. It 

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40 The Church of St Duthach, 

would, moreover, almost certainly, in accordance with 
another superstition of those times, have had the 
surrounding groimd consecrated for burial ; — ^which 
we know also was not the case ; for it is only within 
the last two generations that burials have begun to 
take place beside it, in consequence of the crowded 
state of the churchyard within the town, which had, 
from time immemorial, been the only place of inter- 
ment in the parish. The chapel was apparently a 
mere oratory or place of prayer, with accommodation, it 
would seem, also, for a resident hermit The simple, 
if not rude, style of its architecture seems consistent 
with almost any date : only, as the earliest recorded 
tradition informs us that it stands on the site of St 
Duthach's birthplace, we can hardly suppose it to have 
been built earlier than the year 1065, when he died ; 
while, on the other hand, it is very improbable that 
its erection can have taken place later than the time 
of the translation of his bones, in the thirteenth cen- 
tury. With reference to the fine old church of St 
Duthach within the ancient churchyard, the approxi- 
mate date of its erection is matter of record ; for old 
chronicles declare it to have been built by William, 
Earl of Boss (who died in 1371), aided, doubtless, 
by the contributions of the many votaries who came 
from every part of Scotland to the saint's shrine. 
But this, as the same chronicles declare, was a re- 
building. There had, therefore, been a still older 

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Pilgrimages to his Shrine, 41 

parish church, either on the same site, or near it 
It has been thought by some that the remains of that 
oldest church of all still exist in a remarkable ancient 
enclosed burial-place (or " chapel" so-called), within the 
churchyard, the style of the oldest part of which indi- 
cates both high antiquity and architectural taste. How 
old it is, we cannot say : it may have reached back to 
the very i&rst introduction of Christianity into this 
northern district, and been of Culdee origin; for the 
accumulation of human dust within it, and in the 
churchyard around it, speaks of a very high antiquity 
indeed. It was in this most ancient chapel or church, 
probably, that Duthach himself worshipped as a boy 
and young man ; in it, he may have officiated occa- 
sionally in mature life ; and to it, perhaps, his bones 
were finally translated.* 

It is difficult for us now to realize the feelings 
which, in mediaeval ages, used to gather crowds of 
worshippers to the shrine of a famous saint; what 
extraordinary homage was rendered to his sacred 
relics ; what miracles of healing were believed to be 
performed by means of them ; what power was attri- 
buted to prayers ofifered up beside them; and what 
merit and efficacy to pilgrimages made to the hallowed 
place. The name of Duthach had become somehow 
peculiarly celebrated in Scotland; so that relics of 

* If at any future time the deeply covered foundations of this chapel 
should be exposed, it will be interesting to search for ancient remains — 
possibly inscriptions— which might turn conjecture into certainty. 

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42 The Pilgrims to St Duthach's. 

him were preserved, and even chapels erected in hia 
honour, in various places, such as Edinburgh, Dun- 
fermline, and Aberdeen : but his native town of Tain^ 
and especially three most sacred spots within its girth 
— ^namely, the chapel erected on the site " quhair ha 
was borne," the chapel " within the kirk-yard," where^ 
probably, his remains were laid, and, lastly, the hand- 
some church erected in honour of him in the 14th 
century, were especially reverenced Those who could 
not personally come contented themselves with sending 
costly gifts; but others crowded from every part of the 
land. The remoteness of the locality did not hinder 
this, perhaps rather promoted it ; for the dangers and 
hardships attendant on the long journey — sometimes, 
performed barefoot, or in ways still more painful — were 
supposed to enhance the merit and efficacy of the peni- 
tential act. Those who were afflicted with bodily 
diseases came seeking to be cured; for it was currently 
said that many had been restored through the virtue 
of St Duthach's bones. His very shirt was preserved 
in the sanctuary : marvellous powers were ascribed 
to it, and the Earl of Boss wore it for protection 
when he went to war.* Men, too, whose consciences 
made them uneasy, but who had no wish "to renounce 
their sins — in whose hearts there was neither true 

* The English found St Duthach's shirt on the person of that Earl of 
Boss who was slain at the battle of Halidon Hill, and courteously restored 
it to Tain. But though it was thus restored, one would suppose it must 
have been with its reputation as a life-preserver considerably damaged. 

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Gifts to the Church, 43. 

repentance nor yet faith in the all-cleansing blood of 
Christ — were glad to have a humanly-devised road 
to salvation by pilgrimage. Not but that they might 
be sometimes told by the better class of their priests, 
that faith and repentance were necessary in order to- 
their obtaining the forgiveness of their sins. Not, 
also, but that there were some weary and heavy-laden 
souls among those trooping crowds, broken and contrite 
in heart, who came seeking rest for their wounded 
consciences, but who were by God's grace preserved 
from finding it in the relics or prayers of a saint — from 
finding it until they found it in the blood of Him to 
whom that saint, could he have spoken to them from 
the unseen world, would have bid them go. But it is. 
not of such cases as these that the memory has come 
down to us, but of a few to which the accident of rank 
has given an interest of a more external kind. \ 

For it was not the common people alone who per- 
formed pilgrimages to St Duthach's, and who ofiered 
gifts to his church, but the nobles and the kings of 
Scotland themselves. It is, for example, not an 
uninteresting fact that we have a record of a 
costly offering made to the church of St Duthach 
at Tain in the oldest will known to be extant 
of any Scotchman — namely, in that of Sir James 
Douglas of Dalkeith, dated 30th September, 1390 
(the year, it may be remarked, of the death of Robert 
II. and of the accession of Robert III. — two of the 

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44 ^^^ Constitution as a College, 

Scottish kings who were benefactors to this town). 
Sir James's legacy consisted of his " robes of cloth of 
gold and silk, and his furred robes."* 

It is not improbable that many of our Scottish 
kings performed pilgrimages to St Duthach's shrine. 
In fact, the royal journeys to these northern parts 
were, in the days of the independent Scottish mon- 
archy, so frequent on other accounts, and St Duthach's 
name was so famous, that it is possible that most of 
them may have visited the place where his remains 
were honoured. Perhaps, for example, Alexander III. 
did so.f That James III. visited Tain is in the highest 
degree probable : it is certain that on his marriage 
tour he travelled, with his young Queen (Margaret of 
Denmark), at least as far north as Inverness, where he 
remained long enough to make excursions all round, if 
>so inclined ; and we know that soon thereafter he pro- 
cured from the Bishop of Eoss and the Pope at Rome 
an ecclesiastical constitution of St Duthach's church 
to be what was called a college, himself liberally endow- 
ing its nimierous officials out of the lands of the crown. 
Those officials were, a provost, five canons (all of these 
regular priests), two deacons or sub-deacons, a sacrist 
with an assistant-clerk, and three singing boys. This 
constitution was established in 1487. It was a goodly 
.array, certainly, of ecclesiastical officials, in a parish 

* See Innes's " SketcheB of Early Scottish History," p. 332-4. 
t See Appendix, Note III. 

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Pilgrimages of James IK 45. 

which had previously possessed a rector (perhaps non^ 
resident) and a perpetual vicar, as well as a chaplain 
and hermit of the chapel; at least we must have 
thought it so unless we had reason to know that these 
officials often were not separate persons, and that 
several offices were at times vested in the person of a 
single man. 

After the death of James III. an annual simi waa 
paid out of the royal treasury, doubtless by order of 
his son and successor, James IV., to the chaplain of 
St Duthach, for the purpose of saying masses in 
behalf of the deceaaed monarch's soul. The tragic 
story of James III.'s fate, — first, of his defeat by an 
army nominally headed by his own youthful son, and 
then of his barbarous murder by one of the pursuers 
in the house where he had taken refuge, — is well 
known ; as is also the life-long penance to which the 
son subjected himself after his accession to the throne, 
by wearing an iron chain, to which he added a link 
each successive year, round his body, in order partly 
to disavow complicity in his father's murder, but 
partly also to appease his conscience, which did 
perhaps charge him with culpable acquiescence in the 
rebellion which had led to it. It was doubtless in 
part for the same reason that he performed frequent 
penitential pilgrimages both to the shrine of St Ninian 
at Whitehom, in Galloway, and to that of the famous 
saint of Ross-shire ; though he was far from being free 

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46 Pilgrimages of James IV, 

from other sins that troubled his conscience, and con- 
tributed to multiply these superstitious acts. The 
gallant monarch appears to have visited St Duthach's 
regularly every year, perhaps without the omission 
of one, during at least twenty successive years — from 
1493 to 1513. These facts have been made known 
to us chiefly from the recorded entries of the king's 
personal expenses in the books of his treasurer, which 
are so curious that I cannot deny myself the gratifica- 
tion of quoting them almost entire from the paper of 
the zealous scholar to whose antiquarian researches 
I owe my first acquaintance with them.* 

A.D. 1495-6 (during Lent). Clothes were furnished to the 

King when he passed to St Dutho's againe Pasche. 
1496, April Clothes furnished to the King when he passed 

to St Dutho's agane Whitsunday. 
1496, July 1. Item to the King quhile he raid to Sanct 

Duthowis, £10. 
Item to Henry Fowlis for a relik he maid to the King to 

offer to Sanct Duthow, £2 14s. 

Three visits, it thus appears, in a single year, and 
all within three months! This is something so 
remarkable, that it necessitates the supposition that 
the King had an extraordinary motive for such 
excessive devotion. 

* See a paper read in February, 1846, to the Antiquarian Society of 
Edinburg^h, by David Laing, LL.D., of the Signet Library. Bee also 
Preface to the first published volume of the Lord High Treasurer's 
Accounts, by Thomas Dickson, Esq., to whom I am Indebted for the 
knowledge of probably the first visit paid by James IV. to Tain. This 
was in 1493, or three years earlier than the earliest of the visits ascer- 
tained by Dr Laing. I take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging 
the important help I have received from Mr Dickson in my researches, 
^and the unvarying courtesy with which that help has been rendered. 

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Pilgrimages of James IV. 47 

1496-7, March 16. The King rode from Brechin on a 
pilgrimage to St Duthois, in Ross. On that occasion 
18s. were paid to the ferryaris of Si)ey, of Ardrossier, 
and of Cromarty. At Tain he lodged with the vicar. 

1497, Oct. 10. The King again visited St Duthow's, when 
lis. 6d. was paid in passing to the ferryar of Dee, and 
18s. to the piparis of Aberdeen. 

The treasurer's accounts for the next three years, 

says Dr Laing, are not preserved ; but in 

1^01, November. James IV. was in Ross-shire. On the 
12th of that month 14s. was paid for the freight of a 
boat from Inverness to the Chanonry with the King ; 
and next day 5s. was given "to the Hermit of Sanct 
Duchois Chapell." 

1503, Oct 2. A message was sent to bring Sanct Duchois 
relique from Edinburgh, and to meet the King at 
Perth. Having set out for the North, he was at 
Aberdeen on the 6th, crossed the Spey on the 7th, 
was at Elgin on the 8th, at Beauly on the 9th, Taynb 
on the 11th, when 2s. 2d. was paid for schoeing of the 
King's horse. 

1504, Oct 22. We find the King at Tayne whilst the Queen 
was at Dunfermline, where she was detained "by 
pestilence." There was paid "to the man in Tayne 
that beris Sanct Duthois bell, 3s." Next day the 
King made an offering of 14s. "in Sanct Duchois 
chapell, quhair he was borne ;"* also " in Sanct 
Duchois chapell, in the kirk-yard of Tayne," " in Sanct 
Duchois kirk," and "at the stok of Sanct Duchois 

On this occasion the King amused himself on his 
journey northwards in no very penitential mood. For 
on the 19th of the month there was paid to "the 
madinnis of Forres that dansit to the king, 9s. ; to 

* See Appendix, Note III. 

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48 Pilgrimages of James IV, 

the madinnis that dansit at Elgin siclyke, 9s. 6d. ; 
and to the madinnis that dansit at Damaway, 14s. ;"* 
and the next day, we find him completing his pilgrim- 
age to Tain. Truly characteristic this of superstitious 
worship ! Sometimes, however, his conscience appears 
to have made his pilgrimage somewhat liker a 
penitential journey. Bishop Leslie, says Dr Laing^ 
thus describes one of the King's visits to the shrine, 
apparently under the year 1507. " The haill realm 
of Scotland was in sic quietness that the King raid 
him allane with great diligence on ane day from 
Striveling to Perth, and Aberdeen to Elgin, in post, 
quhair he reposit him on ane hard burd ane certain 
space of the nycht, in Mr Thomas Leslie's hous, the 
parson of Kingussie, and in the mom raid to Sanct 
Duthois, in Rosse, to the masse, the last day of 
August, but retumit again to Striveling to toumay, 
accompanyit with the nobilitie of these cuntries." 

On this occasion the treasurer's book tells us that 
there was paid 

To the King himself in his purss, quhen he rade alane to 
the North, £26. 

" Queen Margaret," adds Dr Laing, " appears for the 

first time to have visited the North of Scotland in 


* What broiight the King to Damaway ? "He had," says Innes, In 
the Spalding Club edition of the " Familie of Innes," " settled his early 
love, the Lady Jean Kennedy, at Damaway, and given their son a grant 
of the great earldom ; and afterwards, when riding on pilgrimage to St 
Duthac of Tain, he would tiun aside to visit the hanks of the Findhom."^ 

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Pilgnmages of James IV. 49 

In December of that year there was paid " to'anfe 
pardonar with Sanct Duthous Crouss, 2s." 

1512, Aug. 27. Item deliverit to the King's grace ane relict 
of Sanct Dutho*8, set in silver, waijed 86 unce 8 grotae 
wecht, price of the unce 8s. Summa £27 17s. 3d. 
Item for making of the samyn, £5 48. 

The next and last entry possesses a melancholy 
interest. In the year 1513, the King secluded him- 
self for eight days in a monastery at Stirling, without 
seeing any person, and meditated a pilgrimage to the 
Holy Land — " such a haud," says an annalist, " had 
superstition gottin ouer him." What he did accom- 
plish, however, was one visit more to St Duthach's 

1513, Aug. 4. Item for three bonets to the King the tyme 
he past to Sanct Duchois, 36s. Aug. 8. Item to the 
King's grace when he past to Sanct Duchois, £66. 

One month later, on the 9th of September, 1513, 
the gallant monarch was killed on the fatal field of 
Flodden. We can hardly wonder that his many pil- 
^images excited remark, even in that superstitious 
Age; nor that the English, in a poem of exultation 
over their victory of Flodden field, taimted the Scots 
with their devotion to " St Triman [Ringan or Ninian] 
of Qidiytehom, and Doffin, thbir demigod of Ross."* 

At least one royal visit more is supposed to have 
been paid to St Duthach's shrine. The Popish ad- 

♦ Weber's '* Battle of Flodden Field," a poem of the sixteenth 

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50 Supposed Pilgrimage of James V. 

visers of King James V., wishing to put him out of 
the way of being influenced in behalf of his young 
relative Patrick Hamilton, the first martyr of the 
Scottish Reformation, instigated him, we are told, to 
perform a pilgrimage to St Duthach's at Tain. There 
is no record, however, of the actual performance of 
the journey. But it has been generally presumed that 
it took place. The footpath leading across a peat- 
bog in the upper part of the parish, which is familiarly 
known to all of us as " the King's Causey," and the 
narrow winding lane leading therefrom into the town,, 
which we dignify with the name of King Street, are 
the only local memorials which we have preserved of 
the royal visits. The uniform local tradition says 
that the " Causey" was constructed by the people of 
the town expressly for the king, — for which of the 
kings I know not, — on their learning that he was on 
his way to St Duthach's barefoot. 

Thus the last of the royal visits was connected 
with the great religious revolution which put an end 
to those vain pilgrimages for ever. It was in the 
reign of James V. that the light of the Reformation 
dawned on Scotland. That most blessed of all 
religious movements since the first propagation of 
Christianity soon made its influence felt in Ross-shire. 
As our town was in such constant communication, and 
especially religious communication, with the south, the 
new doctrine must have been early heard of, perhaps. 

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Tain at the Reformation. 51 

early taught here. Patrick Hamilton was, if not the 
resident, at least the titular abbot of the monastery of 
Feam, which was in the immediate neighbourhood, 
and in the closest connection with Tain : and his 
martyrdom can have hardly failed to excite interest, 
and to stir up inquiry in this quarter into the religious 
opinions for which he died. Here, too, as in other 
parts of Scotland, there appears to have been enough 
of religious corruption and moral depravation among 
the dignitaries of the Church to revolt the consciences 
of the people, and so prepare their minds for a refor- 
mation. Some of the neighbouring potent chiefs — ^and 
especially the head of that family of Munro of Foulis, 
whose community both of political and religious feeling 
with this town is traceable in its effects throughout 
most of her history — seem to have early taken a 
decided stand on the Protestant side. And not only 
he ; but Nicholas Ross, the Provost of the Collegiate 
Church of Tain, though a man who in his own 
domestic life had manifested the demoralising influ- 
ence of the Popish system, was present in the Parlia- 
ment of 1560 as Abbot of Feam (which office he held in 
commendam along with his Provostship) ; and both voted 
for the suppression of Popery. Surrounded by so many 
favourable influences, the people of Tain became such 
decided Protestants, that their zeal procured the notice 
and approbation of the " good regent" Murray, who, 
in acknowledgment of it, bestowed on them the gift of 

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52 Zeal in Tain at the Reformation, 

a finely carved oaken pulpit for their church. Would 
that we still possessed this relic of our forefathers' 
zeal, — by far the most honourable relic, in my estima- 
tion, that our town contahied, but which a lamentable 
negligence has, within the memory of the present and 
immediately preceding generations, suffered to be 
broken, and its ornamentation carried away piecemeal 
by wanton hands ! Few places were able to boast of 
so honourable a memorial.* Indeed, I always look 
back with peculiar gratification on the zeal of our fore- 
fathers which it commemorated : for the Reformation 
was not for their material interests, but put an end 
for ever to the halo of fictitious sacredness with 
which St Duthach's shrine had invested their town; 
so that its privilege of sanctuary fell into desuetude, 
pilgrimages ceased, the crowds no longer flocked to it, 
noblemen and kings visited it no more. I cannot but 
think there must have been a real work of God in 
this parish, a true religious reformation and revival, to 
stir up our forefathers to that public zeal against the 
very superstitions by which they made their worldly 



* I leave the foregoing sentences as they were penned and first 
printed. But Regent Murray's pulpit has now been restored to its 
original beauty ; for the frame-work had happily escaped destruction, 
and portions of the ornamentation have been recovered from private 
collections, and have not only been fitted into their places, but have given 
the clue to the completion of the original design. 

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Chapter IX_ 


I ITH the epooh of tlx^ 
history of Tain, pi-^:^ 
to an end, and a. 
history begins — -a.' 
great religious revolixtion affo 
as does her connection ^^ith St 
we have ah-eady considered, 
certain elements in common 
Common to both is a p^^ 
character, without \vliiob otu- 
have little either to interes^-^ 
enthusiasm in her own chilcij>,__ 
an event worthy of note, in ^^ 
was not connected, dirGctly of ^ 
The religion of the ol<lGjr P®^,^^.,^ 
external and superstitious ; 
more spiritual and pni^- '^^^ 
mentary though oirr t:n^^^ 
almost epical unity, an<^> ^ ^^^^^ 

^Vas, how 
,t of th( 
older hi 
e of it 
^^^tb, a certai 


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Chapter II. 


|ITH the epoch of the Reformation, the old 
history of Tain, properly so called, comes 
to an end, and a wholly new era of her 
history begins — an era to which that 
great religious revolution affords a key as important 
as does her connection with St Duthaoh to that which 
we have already considered. The two periods have 
certain elements in common, and yet differ greatly. 
Common to both is a predominantly religious 
character, without which our town's history would 
have little either to interest strangers or to stir 
enthusiasm in her own children ; there being hardly 
an event worthy of note, in either portion of it, that 
was not connected, directly or indirectly, with religion. 
The religion of the older period was, however, largely 
external and superstitious ; that of the later was 
more spiritual and pure. The older history, frag- 
mentary though our knowledge of it is, has an 
almost epical unity, and, therewith, a certain romantic 

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56 Social Condition, 

as it does now, as a pretty little town. Its situation,, 
and the grouping of its principal buildings into a 
cluster in the centre, must even then have given it a 
picturesque appearance. The Church of St Duthus was 
there in its original beauty; there, I suppose, was 
also the old " steeple," not the same as that which 
now forms so striking a feature of the place, nor even 
occupying exactly the site of the present tower, but 
standing within the churchyard, being properly,, 
indeed, the bell-tower of the church, though a 
detached building, and its style,x we may presume, 
being in keeping with the church, and, therefore, at 
least as imposing as its more modem successor. 
A castle, the residence of the heritable or royal 
bailie, stood a little to the east, on what is still known 
as the Castle Brae. The old chapel, where St Duthach 
had been bom, was to be seen below the town, roofless, 
but its walls in a less ruinous state than now. 

As to its social condition. Tain was at that time a 
httle capital to the whole country around; for men 
were attracted to it by secular and religious motives 
combined. At least three times a year, crowds flocked 
to the great religious festivals held in St Duthus^ 
Church; and as is still very commonly the case in 
Roman Catholic towns on the Continent, occasion 
was taken immediately after to hold fairs or markets 
in the churchyard (thus under the shadow of the 
Church's protection), and from the churchyard extend- 

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The Fairs: a Homicide. 57- 

ing into the High Street of the town. To these fairs, 
country people carried the produce of their farms and 
their rude home-manufactures for sale, in callachies — 
little carts, with railed sides and solid wheels (such as 
some of us remember to have often seen loaded with 
peats from Edderton), in which likewise they carried 
home their purchases. Dealers came also from the far- 
south with all sorts of goods, and the fairs were in many 
ways so important and enjoyable that the neighbour- 
ing proprietors and their families liked to attend 
them : perhaps even the pilgrim kings may, when 
visiting St Duthus, have sometimes waited to be 
present at them. 

The people of the town were doubtless very similar 
to what they are now ; for the race is the same, and 
human nature does not change. There were the two« 
languages as at present ; only that Gaelic was then 
much more prevalent. 

On these festive occasions there would be much 
hospitality, kindness, and fun; so liable, however, 
to be interrupted by brawls, that the Magistrates 
always appointed a market-guard, under the command 
of a captain, to keep the peace. One such brawl is. 
recorded to have taken place in 1583, which had a 
fatal termination. Captain James Ross, "brother's- 
son to the Laird of Achlossin, and Patrick Yvat with 
him, were slain in the chalmer of Andrew Ross, in 
Tain, at 8 hours afore noon or thereby, by Nicolas-. 

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:58 Religious Observances before the Reformation, 

Koss and Walter Ross, with their complices;" and 
it may give an idea of the state of public justice 
-at this time, when I mention that Nicolas Boss escaped 
the penal consequences of the homicide, not in virtue 
of a trial and acquittal, but of a Royal remission 
-exempting him from trial; the remission being 
granted him ten years after the fact, probably for 
a pecuniary payment ; but also through family in- 
fluence — ^for the deed of remission expressly designates 
him brother of the Laird of Invercarron. The shedding 
of human blood went for little in those days; and 
•only as a more spiritual religion gradually leavened 
the population, did human life come to be estimated 
as above all money price. 

The external religion of those times was doubtless 
imposing. St Duthus' Church, on festal occasions, 
would shine resplendent with gold and silver — ^both 
-of the vessels used in the ceremonies, and of the 
relic cases and other costly gifts of wealthy devotees. 
The priests would be seen moving about in gorgeous 
vestments, celebrating the mass for the supposed 
benefit of the souls of those who had endowed the 
Church, as well as for the worshippers' present, and 
:a band of white-robed choristers sang matins and 
vespers daily for the same objects. We can 
imagine the influence which all this pretentious 
worship would have on many minds; but we also 
know how imsatisfactory it would be to those who 

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Influences favourable to the Reformation, 59 

were taught by the Spirit of God to hunger and thirst 
after righteousneBS. Of these latter, there would seem 
to have been at this time not a few; and to such 
the doctrine of Divine grace, through the blood of 
Ohrist, and by regeneration of the Holy Ghost,, as 
preached by the Reformers, would be as cold waters to 
:a thirsty soul. The oaken pulpit, which was presented 
by the Gixd Regent Moray ^ the friend of John KnoX, to 
the people of Tain, " for their zeal in the cause of the 
Reformation," and which, as now restored, adorns the 
old church, is the standing monument of the religious 
feeling of our town at this important epoch. 

I have already hinted at some of the influences 
that probably led to this state of feeling. The first 
was the martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton. The " reek" 
of that martyrdom, wherever else it may have been 
carried, must have been quickly borne to his own 
Monastery of Feam, and to Tain in its close neigh- 
bourhood It can hardly have been an accidental 
•coincidence that within seventeen years, if not sooner, 
Nicolas Ross, Hamilton's second successor in the 
Abbacy of Feam, and at the same time Provost of 
the Collegiate Church of St Duthach, openly pro- 
fessed the Reformed faith. We know too little of the 
private history of this man to be able to determine 
what was the measure of his religious influence — ^how 
far he led the Reforming movement here, or was him- 
self led by it His early life, like that of many Romish 

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6o Changes at the Reformation, 

dignitaries of those days, had been by no means 
exemplary, as is proved by his application for Royal 
" letters of legitimation " in behalf of three illegitimate 
sons, when purchasing from Balnagown the estate 
of Easter and Wester Gany (Geanies), to settle upon 
them. But as, in addition to his early profession of 
Protestantism, we know that in the Parliament of 1560 
(in which, as Abbot of Feam, he had a seat), he voted 
for the Reformation, we cannot doubt that his local 
influence also was now exerted in the same direction. 
Whether he himself preached, we do not know; 
but his authority, as the great man of the town, 
and district, must have been great ; and out of the 
revenues which had been his as Provost of St Duthus, 
the Protestant ministers of Tain were afterwards 
supported. I am disposed, therefore, to assign him 
the honourable place of one of the eflfective promoters 
of the Reformation in the North. 

The external change which took place in Taiu 
through the Reformation must have been a very great 
one. The collegiate establishment of St Duthus was 
abolished ; its splendid ceremonial ceased, the daily 
singing of its choir was no longer heard, nor were pro- 
cessions of its priests seen any more. Probably also- 
the building was dismantled ; and in various ways a 
blank must have been made in the popular life. What 
was there to fill the blank ? The Word of God ; and 
this, to those who received it, was everything. A 

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Survivals of old Beliefs and Practices, 6i 

<5opy of the Bible, strongly bound in oak, was, says 
tradition, at this time chained to the reading-desk in 
the church, and read aloud daily by a reader specially 
appointed, at the hour when people came from the 
country to do business in the town. Occasionally 
there would be visits from George Munro, the Super- 
intendent and Commissioner for the Plantation of 
Churches in the North, who is said to have been an 
able preacher and very pious man. The first regular 
minister of Tain (he had charge also of Edderton, 
Tarbat, and Nigg) was named Finlay Manson. 

The leaven of spiritual truth which was now 
introduced among our ancestors had to work its way, 
of course, against many obstacles ; and a proportion of 
the people — we cannot say what proportion — doubt- 
less clung long to their old beliefs and habits. It will 
not surprise us, therefore, to find remnants of the 
Bomish worship and of its superstitious practices sur- 
viving in some quarters for a considerable time. The 
pilgrimages, for example, did not cease instantane- 
ously — not, indeed, completely for two hundred 
years. I have it on good traditional authority that 
down even to the latter half of last century, persons 
were sometimes seen paying religious visits to the 
old ruined chapel below the towa Still grosser 
superstitions survived here and there, and perhaps in 
some minds gained even additional force. Persons, 
for example, who had sought the healing of disease or 

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62 Witchcraft, 

other benefits from St Duthach's relics, now that 
they were deprived of these, were fain to fall back, if 
they had no higher faith, on witchcraft as their 
only resource. Witchcraft and charms were at 
this time much resorted to, the belief in. them 
having come down through the ages as a survival 
from old Paganism. The corrupted Christianity of 
the Middle Ages had neither destroyed, nor done 
much to weaken these superstitions; had, indeed, 
rather fostered the feelings on which they lived, by 
setting up what were virtually rival charms or fetiches 
of its own, in the guise of crosses, holy water, relics of 
the saints, priestly masses, and the like. The doc- 
trine of the Reformation, by bringing men into con- 
scious, direct relation with God — ^the one God of 
grace, providence, and nature — sapped the Pagan and 
the Romish superstitions at their foundation ; but 
time was needed for this better influence to produce 
its full eflfect on men's daily life, for superstition often 
survives as a feeling and a practice after men have 
become ashamed to avow it as a belief. We know that 
it has by no means wholly died out even yet, and in 
those days it was prevalent in all ranks of society, 
in every part of Scotland and of Europe. We 
shall not wonder, therefore, to find that it existed in 
this town and neighbourhood. Curiously, there have 
been handed down to us the name, and even nickname, 
of a Tain witch of those days — ^her name, Marjory 

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Witchcraft in the Sixteenth Century, 63, 

M*Alister — ^her nickname, Loskie Loutart ; * and the 
name of a Tain wizard, William M^Gillivray, and his 
nickname, Dame, f Both the witch and the wizard 
were involved in a charge of magic and 
attempted murder by poisoning, said to have 
been practised by them at the instigation 
of Catharine Ross, Lady Foulis, second wife of 
Robert M6r Munro, that first Protestant Baron of 
Foulis whom I have already mentioned as taking a 
prominent part in the Reformation, and as exercising 
a high influence in promoting it in Easter Ross. 
Marjory M*Alister was said to have made for this lady 
an image of clay, to be set up and shot at with 
elf arrows, the object being to cause the person 
whom the image represented (the lady's stepson, 
her husband's heir), to pine away and die. William 
M*Gillivray was sentenced to be burnt for having sold 
to the lady a "box of witchcraft," that is, of 
poison, for the same end. The woman M'Alister 

* The nickname, as copied correctly from the criminsJ records 
(Pitcaim, in his "Criminal Trials," had incorrectly read it Loskie Loncart), 
appears to be a Lowland pronunciation of the Gaelic Loi^g an Ladar, i.e., 
" Bum the Ladle"— a sufl&ciently appropriate epithet for a reputed witch,. 
who was probably an old woman accustomed to make " broth," perhaps 
also medicinal or poisonous decoctions, of wild herbs. It was near Forres, 
not a hundred miles from Tain, that Shakespeare represents three 
witches as preparing an abominable broth of all manner of horrible 
ingredients, with the help of a weird incantation having the refrain— 
" Double, double, toil and trouble ; 
Fire, bum ; and cauldron, bubble." 

t Probably Darrih, which, in Gaelic, means not only "ap ox," but 
also a native *' doctor" or " herbalist." 

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^4 ^ Cause Cel^re. 

was not similarly dealt with ; probably because a 
distinction was made between witchcraft that took 
the effective form of the administration of poison, and 
that which confined itself to the fanciful method of 
shooting at a clay image. A son, also, of the same 
distinguished family was said to have employed a 
witch to cure him of a fever, which she pretended to 
do by having him carried out in a blanket in a frosty 
night in January, and laid down in a new-made grave 
at the boundary between two baronies, thus to 
transfer his fever to a step-brother, who should die 
instead of him. Both the lady and the son were sub- 
jected to a form of trial before the High Court of 
Justiciary on these charges ; but were acquitted, as was 
certain to be the case from the composition of the 
juries, who, in both trials, consisted mostly of clans- 
men of their own, Bosses and Munroes, many of these 
being burgesses of Tain. If, notwithstanding the 
acquittals so obtained, anyone still believes the accu- 
sations to have been founded in truth, he will only 
have an illustration of the frequently remarked fact 
that good and truly Christian men may be sorely tried 
by misconduct in their own families ; for it is satisfac- 
tory to be able to say that no taint of suspicion ever 
fell on the good Baron himself, but that, on the >con- 
trary, the actors in the matter showed the utmost 
anxiety to prevent their dealings with witches from 
coming to his ears. 

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Constitution of the Totvn. 65 

Tain had received the immunities of a free trading 
town from its founder, Malcolm Canmore. It seems 
to have had Magistrates called Bailies from a very 
early date; but I cannot find that there was any 
Provost of the Burgh, called by that title, before 
the Reformation. The oldest Bailie would be 
virtually Provost ; but the title seems to have 
belonged exclusively to the ecclesiastical head of St 
Duthus, who was really invested with some civil 
rights, among which was that of receiving legal fines 
when inflicted on delinquents by the heritable Bailie 
in name of the King. The ecclesiastical Provost's 
civil rights probably ceased with the disestablishment 
of Popery; and we therefore find Provost Nicolas 
Ross, six years after the Reformation, entering into a 
singular contract with the heritable Bailie, Innes of 
The Plaids, by which the Bailie bound himself to hold 
courts, as formerly, whenever he should be required by 
the Provost so to do, and to pay over to the Provost 
two-thirds of all the fines that should be imposed. 
This was a curious agreement ; the state of public 
justice which it indicates cannot have been satis- 
factory. By what process the title of Provost passed 
over to the chief civil magistrate, and when and how 
the local courts were placed on a more satisfactory 
basis, has not been ascertained. The oldest extant 
charter of the burgh, a charter of confirmation and 
novodamus, granted by King James VI. in the year 

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66 John MunrOy Minister of Tain. 

1 587, pre-supposes the existence of all the regular burgh 
authorities, ratifying, but not creating, their powers. 

We now approach a period when Tain was again to 
assume prominence in Scottish ecclesiastical afifairs. 
Amongst the endowments of St Duthus' Church had 
been a number of chaplainries, so called ; that is to 
say, of annuities presented to priests, who were bound 
in return to say masses for the souls of the donors. 
After the Eeformation, these chaplainries were, in 
partial carrying out of Knox^s enlightened scheme of 
education, usually granted as bursaries to young meu^ 
to enable them to study at the University. No better 
use for them could have been found. The application 
of one of them is specially interesting to us. The 
chaplainry of Newmore in St Duthus' Church was held 
for several years by a student named John Munro, 
nephew of that first Protestant Baron of Foulis of 
whom I have already spoken. This John Munro, 
before the end of the century, became minister of 
Tain. He was also called Sub-Dean of Koss; this title 
being probably an accompaniment of a mere civil right 
to the emoluments of an office that had once existed 
in the Eomish Church, but was now abolished. He 
was no cypher in his ministry : in the faithful 
execution of it he came into collision with the King 
himself. When James VI. succeeded in the year 1603 
to the throne of England, he formed a scheme to 
effect a complete union between his two Kingdoms 

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The Aberdeen Assembly, 67 

:and their two Churches. But he neither oon- 
•ceived this object aright, nor pursued it in a right 
way; for he attempted to force the Church of the 
smaller nation into conformity with that of the laiger, 
4md in order to this, set himself deliberately to oppress 
the consciences of her most devoted children. Lest 
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 
should thwart his scheme, he interdicted its meet- 
ing ; thereby violating two principles at once — 
the religious principle of the Church's obligation 
4uid consequent right to meet in name of her Divine 
Head, whether in congregations or in General Assem- 
bly, for the performance of ©very duty which He 
has imposed on her ; and the constitutional principle 
•of the King's incompetency to forbid the meeting 
of a General Assembly which had been summoned 
in strict accordance with the laws of the kingdom, 
as ratified by himself. Doubtless these principles, in 
their practical application, involved difficulties which 
may have perplexed even honest and enlightened 
men, or may have made them think the time inoppor- 
tune for the practical assertion of them : the more 
remarkable, therefore, was the decision and courage 
•of the few Presbyteries — that of Tain was one of them 
— which deputed representatives to the interdicted 
Assembly; and of the nineteen ministers — one of 
them the celebrated John Welsh (John Knox's son-in- 
law), of Ayr in the far South ; another, John Munro, 

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68 John Munro's Imprisonment and Escape, 

of Tain in the far North ; who, in spite of the inter- 
dict and of tempestuous weather, actually met at Aber- 
deen, and constituted the Assembly in the name of 
Christ. John Munro was one of three who were put 
in nomination for the Moderatorship of this Assembly. 
The King, calling it a seditious Assembly, summoned 
its leading members to appear before his Privy 
Council to answer for their conduct. Of the seventeen 
who appeared, ten, in submission to the Council, 
declared themselves to be now persuaded that the 
Aberdeen Assembly was "altogether unlawful;" but 
the remaining seven — one of them " Mr John Munro,. 
Sub-Dean of Ross," confessed and maintained, in 
presence of the said Lords, that the said Assembly was 
"a verie lawful General Assembly." The Privy 
Council banished these seven faithful men to the 
wildest parts of Scotland — each to the farthest 
possible distance from his own parish. The minister 
of Tain was sentenced to be banished to Kintyre, the 
remotest part of Argyleshire, and was meanwhile im- 
prisoned in the Castle of Doune in Perthshire. From 
the prison he and a brother minister contrived to 
effect their" escape. In visiting the Castle some years 
ago, with my interest all awake from my recollection 
of this history, I wondered greatly if it had been 
possible for them to escape from within those lofty 
and massive walls. The explanation is that the 
constable of the Castle (whose sympathies must have- 

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Letter from the Privy Council, 69 

"been on their side) afforded them abnost every liberty 
•of holding intercourse with friends, both while confined 
in the Castle, and while being removed to their places of 
banishment ; for which practical sympathy he himself 
was subsequently imprisoned. Mr John Munro, making 
his way home to Tain, resumed his regular ministra- 
tions among his people. But the stipend which had 
formerly been paid him through the Crown authorities 
was now withheld, and must have been made up 
to him, if made up at all, by the pure affection 
of his people. Thus matters continued for three 
or four years, during which the King succeeded in 
putting down all effectual resistance to his will in 
the Church of Scotland ; and the General Assembly, 
while its most faithful men were silenced or absent, 
acquiesced in his proposals. But he could not brook 
the continued opposition, however powerless, even of a 
few ministers, and he directed his Scottish Privy 
Council to take steps to compel their submission. 
The Coimcil accordingly addressed the following letter 
to the Provost and Bailies of Tain : — * 

" Traistb Prbinds, — After oure hairtly commendationis : 
Whereas Mr Johnne Manro, minister, being of a lang tyme 
higane denunceit rebelle and putt to the home for an heich 
contempt, and offence committit be him agains the King, his 
tsacred Majestic, and being of new chargit to half compeirit befoir 
his Majestie's Counsaill to half answerit upon his said offence, he 
takand the cryme upon him, hes absentit himselff, and compearit 

*PubllBh6d by the late Dr Lalng, among "Original Letters relating 
^ Ecclesiastical Affairs." Vol. I., page 425. 

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70 John Munro^s Death, 

not, and is thairfor of new ordainit to be denuncit rebelle, and 
putt to the home ; and notwithstanding of his rebellioun, we 
are informed that he hes his ordinair residence in that toune^ 
and uses his ministerie there as if he wer a lauchfuU subject^ 
whereat we mervell not a little, that you, who are his Majestie's 
officers, armed with his Majestie's Royal power and auctoritie^ 
lould by your connivance, suffer aney such persenis, who standis. 
under his Majestie's offence, hef so peaceable a residence and free 
exercese of their calling amang you, seeing in the dewitie of 
your offices you stand answerable to his Majestic for every such 
errour and oversight, wherewith in reason you may be burdennit j 
and thairfor chairgis are direct againis you for the apprehensionn 
ol the said Mr Johnne, and keeping of him prisonner in some 
chalmer of yeur toune quhil he purge himselff of his rebellioun. 
The execution of the quhilkis chargis, we h^ hereby thoght 
meet to recommend unto your cair and diligence, admonishing^ 
you, that if you be remiss or negligent thairin, that not only 
will you be maid to gif acompt of yeur bipast errour and over- 
sight in this poynt, but such other ordour will be tane with you 
as your nogligence in such a case requireth. And so committing 
you to Qod's protection, we rest, — ^Your goode freindis. 

A. Canckl. 
Sanct Andbois. 



•*Bdinbuigh, 24th May, 1610. 

" To our Right Traiste Freindis, The Provost and Bailliea 
of Tayne." 

We can conceive the seniaation which the arriyal of 
this letter must have created in the town; but our 
precise information as to the course of these events 
ends here, there being no extant burgh, parochial, or 
presbytery records of the period. We only know 
further that, five years after this, John Munro died at 
Tain; but everything we do know of his character and 

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His Place in History, 71 

history, as a man who had boldly resisted the 
King's inyasion of the freedom of the Church, who 
had stood brayely to his principles in the presence 
(^ the Privy Comicil when the majority of his brethren 
were succumbing, who had, moreoyer, resumed and 
continued his ministerial labours among his people 
without his former legal salary from the Crown,^— 
everything assures us that such a man was not likely 
to have been terrified by the threat, or even by the 
experience, of imprisonment in his own town (where 
he would have the sympathies of all the best of his 
people) into a violation of his conscience, such as would 
be involved in submission, at the end, to the King's 
usurped authority in sacred things. We would fain 
indeed have more particular information of his latter 
days; but it is something- to know of him that he, 
the minister of this small northern town, was one of the 
few who first lifted into prominence, and who main- 
tained at the cost of personal suffering and loss, the 
true principles of religious freedom — ^principles which, 
alter the death of these first witnesses, slept indeed for 
a generation, but then revived with a power that 
shook the throne of both the kingdoms. 

The Magistrates of the town were busy at this very 
time in procuring a second charter from King James 
VI. for the more exact definition of their magisterial 
powers, and of the extent of the burgh lands. 

About the year 1626 much interest was awakened 

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72 Scottish Soldiers under Gustavus Adolphus, 

in these northern parts in the great struggle of the 
Thirty Years' War in Germany, and two regiments were 
formed, one. under the command of Lord Keay, th6 
chief of the Mackays, the other under Munro of 
Obsdale, to fight under Gustavus Adolphus, King of 
Sweden, "the Lion of the North," for the liberties 
of the German Protestants, against their Imperial and 
Popish enemies. Though containing soldiers from all 
parts of Scotland, these regiments were chiefly com- 
posed of men from Easter Ross and Sutherland — ^that 
is to say, from the district of which Tain was the 
market town, and, in almost every sense, the capital ; 
and there can be no doubt that many of our young 
townsmen were among the adventurer?. It is not 
diflBicult to conceive that this close connection with 
the great Continental struggle would excite among our 
ancestors an interest intelligent as well as enthu- 
siastic in the principles involved, and would help to 
prepare them for the approaching struggle for the like 
principles at home. We know, in fact, that a number 
of these soldiers of fortune returned from abroad with 
something better than honour — with religious life 
either first found or greatly strengthened through 
intercourse with fervent Christians in the army of 
Gustavus. I think it not an insignificant remark that 
it was in this period, when men's minds were so in- 
fluenced here, that there was bom and brought up in 
this town a man, Thomas Hog, whom we shall meet 

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Marquis of Montrose — His Last Expedition, 73 

liereafter as one of the best of the Covenanting 
worthies of Scotland, and certainly the most renowned 
of them in the North. 

We pass over thirty years, crowded with important 
events in the history of our country, to find our town, 
in the year 1650, in the very thick of the great 
national conflict. The celebrated Marquis of Montrose, 
once a Covenanter, had passed to the Royalist side, 
and had for some time devoted himself, with high 
courage and splendid military genius, to reduce Scot- 
land to abject submission to the King. After various 
vicissitudes, he landed in Orkney with foreign troops 
in 1650, and having crossed to Caithness with 
these and also with troops obtained in Orkney, 
he marched into Sutherland by the Ord, and after 
resting at Kintradwell, Rhives, Pitfour, and Lairg, 
-crossed the Shin and the Oykel to the Ross-shire 
side, and then marched down along the Kyle until 
he reached Carbisdale, near the south end of the 
present railway bridge. But while he halted for a few 
-days at Carbisdale to await reinforcements from the 
Royalist clans, intelligence of his movements were 
•carried to Edinburgh, and active preparations were 
•commenced there to send a strong army northwards 
against him. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Strahan 
hurried in advance with a small troop of horse to Tain. 
On arriving here, he was joined by about 500 foot, 300 
of these under the command of the Earl of Sutherland 

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74 Montros^s Defeat at Carbisdale, 

(who had thought it prudent, after garrisoning the prin- 
cipal places in his own county, to pass into Ross), the 
rest under Ross of Balnagown, and Munro of Lmnlair. 
At a council of war it was resolved that the Earl of 
Sutherland should re^jross the firth, and throw 
himself into the enemy's rear, both to protect his own 
county and to prevent Montrose from being joined 
by men from the farther North ; whilst Strahan him- 
self and his five troops of horse, together with the- 
Munroes and Rosses, under their respective leaders,, 
should march through Edderton, into Kincardine, on 
this side of the Firth, to intercept Montrose^ 
before he could retire to the hills. On Saturday, the 
27th of April, whilst Strahan's ofl&cers were deliberat- 
ing whether to move immediately forward or wait till 
Monday, in order to avoid the necessity of fighting 
upon the Lord's Day, he received the intelligence of 
Montrose's advance from Strath Oykel to Carbisdale. 
Strahan immediately advanced unobserved to within 
a few miles of Montrose's encampment, hiding his- 
men amidst the broom, in order to conceal from Mon- 
trose's scouts the fewness of his forces. The great 
Montrose was thoroughly deceived ; and, supposing the- 
few horsemen who were seen crossing the hill to be 
but the first of a large body of cavalry to follow, he fled 
to the north-west to avoid the expected attack, his. 
foreign troops making for the wood, to which they 
were followed by the Munroes and Rosses, who cut 

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Monirosis Capture and Execution, 75-. 

them down in great numbers. The timiuli which mark 
where they were buried may, to this day, be seen ex- 
tending for two miles in that direction, and not many 
years ago diiks and other weapons, and even silver 
spoons, were found in turning up the ground. Two 
hundred of Montrose's troops attempted to cross 
the Kyle, but, mistaking the ford, were drowned; 
while four hundred were taken prisoners. The con- 
querors offered thanks to God in the open field for the 
victory obtained, and returned to Tain, carrying the 
prisoners along with them. Montrose himself, after 
wandering about in disguise for a time in Sutherland, 
was captured by Macleod of Assynt, who kept him in 
his Castle of Ardvreck, whence he was removed to- 
Skibo Castle, thence to Brahan, and thence to Edin- 
burgh, where, as we all know, he was, ere long, 
ignominiously executed. We could have wished, in 
consideration of his heroism, however mistakenly 
directed, that his life could have been spared in 
consistency with the safety of his country. The mob. 
of Edinburgh alone must be held responsible for the 
circumstances of unfeeling insult that attended his. 
execution. We have the gratification of remembering 
that on this occasion our ancestors — ^the men of Easter 
Ross — ^fought effectually on what was the side both 
of Scottish freedom and of religion. 

As to the material condition of Easter Boss and 
Tain about this time, we have some curious details in 

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76 Franke's Description of Tayn, 

one of the few old books of Scottish travels — ^a book 
written by Franke, an English gentleman of Cromwell's 
army, who, in 1657 and '58, travelled from Carlisle by 
land to Inverness, and thence (apparently by sea) to 
Dunrobin. In returning, he seems to have crossed the 
Firth from Sutherland to Koss-shire, and describes 
"what he saw on landing in this strange, aflfected style.* 
" Where are we now ? On ten^a firma^ where should 
we be? And this is the town of Tayn in Ross, that 
equaliseth Dornoch for beautiful buildings, and as 
■exemplary as any place for justice; that never use 
gibbet nor halter to hang a man, but sacks all their 
malefactors, and so swim them to their death." 
Drowning* was of old the common fonri of execution 
-of women in Scotland ; but, curiously, Franke here says 
— ^perhaps mistaking the exact import of what he 
heard — that in Tain even men were so executed In 
another place he launches out in high-flown praise of 
the abundance and cheapness of provisions in Ross — 
»{that is, Easter Ross). " So replenished," he says, " is 
Ross with fish, as no part of Scotland can boast of;" 
And after describing the abundance of other provisions, 
he concludes, " But what have I to do to discourse a 
•country where eggs are sold for twenty-four a penny, 
and all other accommodations proportionable ; nor ever 
expect to have it cheaper when we leave these plenti- 
ful borders of Ross." He records as a curious local 

* " Northern Memoirs, Calculated for the Meridian of Scotland." 

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His Praises of Easter Ross. 77- 

belief regarding the soil of Boss (what many of va- 
remember to have heard in youth regarding that of 
Sutherland), that it had the quality of expelling rats ; 
"and some others," he adds, "as ignorant as themselves, 
transport the earth of Boss into most parts of Scotland,, 
persuading themselves that if they do but sprinkle it 
in the fields, it shall force that ienormous vermin, the 
rat, to become an exile." With amusing seriousness, 
he reasons against the credibility of the belief, saying 
that, though he never saw a rat here, "as for mice, so 
great is their plenty that, were they a commodity, 
Scotland might boast of it ; and," argues our philoso- 
phical traveller, like a Darwinian bom before the time, 
"mice and rats are cousin-german, as everybody knows 
that knows anything, and for the most part keep house 
together; and what diflference has happened amongst 
them here, as to make such a feud that the rats in 
Ross should relinquish their countiy, and give posses- 
sion wholly to the mice, this is a mystery that I under- 
stand not" The puzzle was not lessened by the 
traveller's finding a very different state of matters at 
Forres, which he declares "is famous for nothing 
except that infamous vermin, the rat, because so 
numerous in these parts (of Moray) that a cat can 
scarcely get a living amongst them. Why," he sup- 
poses some one to ask, " don't they send and fetch of 
the earth from Ross T and he answers, " That I know 
not ; but this I know, that they snatched the meat off^ 

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78 Tain at the Restoration, 

' our trenchers, and churmed the stockings and apparel 
of the soldiers. I have been told that these vermin 
politicians storm the town once or twice arjear, to the 
terrifying amazement of all the inhabitants : and that 
cats durst not be seen abroad.'' 

From the turgid sentences of this pedantio 
traveller we turn to the burgh records of the period 
in search of some indubitable facts regarding the town. 
The oldest extant of these records begins in 1660, the 
year of the restoration of Charles 11. , and three 
years after Franke's visit. Unfortunately, it is 
much mutilated, in many places quite ill^ible, and 
the legible portion of it contains not much that 
is specially interesting. We learn &om it that a 
burgess was regularly elected to represent the burgh 
in Parliament, that meetings of Town Council were 
regularly held for ordinary business, as were burgh 
courts, at which there was transacted a good deal of 
legal business — ^almost as much as there is now at 

•ordinary sheriff courts. The Town Council made some 
attempts, as unwise as similar ones found in the history 
of other burghs, to regulate the market price of goods 
in the town. But we find one interference with free 
trade which had probably a wiser reason. This was 
the imposition by the Magistrates of a high tax on 
bent-grass tuif^a tax so high that it was apparently 
meant to be prohibitory. One cannot help wishing 
that the tax had been imposed earlier and had proved 

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Tain during the Persecutions, 79 

more successful ; for before the end of the century, if 
tradition speaks correctly, the downs of the Morrich- 
iu6r had been so exposed by turf-cutting that the 
.storm of a single night drifted their sand over the 
Fendom, and destroyed the previously fertile farms 
belonging to the biu^h and other proprietors of the 

It was a dismal and yet glorious period for Soot- 
land that had opened with the Bestoration— -a period 
»of more widespread and longer-continued oppression of 
•conscience, but a period also of more numerous 
instances of heroic sacrifice of all things worldly and of 
life itself for conscience sake, than our land has ever 
witnessed before or since. The old attempt was renewed 
to force the Church of Scotland into conformity with 
that of England, against the convictions of the people; 
and, as is well known, 400 ministers were ejected 
from their parishes for refusing compliance. Mr Andrew 
Boss, the minister of Tain, was one of the ejected ; 
but as he died very soon after, we know less of him 
than we do of three of his brother ministers within the 
Synod of Boss who were similarly treated, viz. — ^Mr 
Thomas Boss, minister of Kincardine, a remarkably 
pious man, who suffered imprisonment for years in the 
tolbooth of Tain, where he was frequently visited by 
persons from far and near desiring spiritual counsel 
and help; Mr M'Eilligan, of Alness, a similarly 
devoted man; and, most eminent of them all, Mr 

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8o Thomas Hog of Kiltearn, 

Thomas Hog, of Kilteam. He, as I have abready 
mentioned, was a native of this town. He was a man 
of the most fervent piety and deepest Christian 
experience, whose character was not only thoroughly 
consistent before men, but who, living very near to- 
God, was proportionally blessed in his ministerial 
labours. When ejected from his parish, he wandered 
about preaching the Grospel with great success, 
especially in Morayshire. For an outed minister to do- 
this was then a high crime, and on complaint being 
made by some of the conforming ministers of the 
district where he preached, he was intercommuned — 
that is to say, all men were prohibited, on pain of fine 
or other punishment, from receiving him into their 
houses, or furnishing him with the necessaries of life. 
He was several times imprisoned, and finally banished 
from Scotland. Holland was at that time the refuge 
for Scottish exiles ; there he resided for several years, 
and so won the esteem of the Prince of Orange that he,, 
when expecting to be called to the British throne,, 
consulted him on Scottish affairs. At the Revolution, 
Mr Hog was restored to his parish, to form, with a 
few surviving brethren, the nucleus of the restored 
Presbyterian and Evangelical Church of the Northern 
Highlands. Hardly, however, had he been resettled 
among his people when the Prince of Orange, who waa 
now King William III. of Great Britain, urged his. 
removal to London as one of his private chaplains; but 

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Tain during the Persecutions. 8i 

health and strength had by this time failed, and his^ 
spirit, which his friends had for some time seen to bo 
"transported with the hope of glory," was called away 
into the presence of his Lord and Saviour before the 
summons of his earthly King could take effect. The 
reverence felt for him by his Christian friends found 
expression after his death in the title of "that great and 
almost apostolical servant of Christ," and even his most 
unscrupulous enemies, while diligently seeking to find 
something wherewith to blacken his memory, " could 
find no fault in him at all, except as touching the law 
of his God." It becomes the people of Tain to cherish 
his memory, as one of the best and greatest men whom 
this town, or Ross-shire, has produced. 

We ask with interest. What were the feelings of the 
people of Tain duipiiig t^^® twenty-eight " black years" 
of persecution under Charles II. and James VII. ? We 
have only a few data for answering this question. 
The burgh records of the period are absolutely silent 
on the subject : but this very silence may be con- 
sidered expressive ; the apparent care that is taken 
to avoid all allusion to national events, suggesting 
the idea that the Town Councillors considered it 
dangerous to write down the thoughts that were in 
their hearts. We know that Mr Robert RoSs was 
settled as the Episcopal incumbent in the year 1666, 
and continued in his office for thirty-four years. Yet, 
not only has his name absolutely perished out of the oral 

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82 Tain during the Persecutions, 

traditions of the district (in contrast with the Presby- 
terian ministers who followed him, whose names and 
even characters have all been affectionately handed 
down), but the burgh records during his incumbency are 
almost equally silent regarding him ; the solitary 
mention of his name being on occasion of a complaint 
made by him to the Town Council in a dispute he had 
about peats with the proprietor of Tarlogie, on the 
merits of which dispute the Town Council gavp no 
opinion, but appointed a committee to try to settle it. 
Another negative indication of the state of feeling 
may be found in the following circumstance. Tain 
received a visit from the Bishop of Koss in the year 
1665, and the Town Council presented him with the 
freedom of the burgh on the occasion. But the meet- 
ing of Council at which this was' done consisted of 
a bare quorum, viz., the Provost (who was a neigh- 
bouring laird), and two Bailies ; whereas, at the 
immediately preceding and immediately following 
meetings, there was a full attendance of the members 
— the marked contrast leading us to suspect that most 
of them had no desire to meet the Bishop, and that 
there was little heart in the compliment paid him. 
Indeed, when we read a letter which was written 
this very year by Archbishop Sharp to Lord Tarbat, 
urging, in a characteristically selfish and violent 
manner, the adoption of more stringent measures 
against the outed ministers of Ross-shire and their 

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Robert Ross^ Incumbent of Tain, 83 

followers, we conclude that the Bishops and the 
Government did not obtain cordial support even 
from the proprietors of Ross-shire. Munro of Foulis 
and Ross of Balnagown both zealously assisted the 
outed ministers. In the parish of Tain also, one 
proprietor at least, M'Culloch of The Plaids, was fined 
for practical sympathy with them. The opposition 
offered here to the oppressive measures of the Govern- 
ment did not generally, however, take such an active 
form as in some parts of the South. 

On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism at the 
Revolution, Mr Robert Ross, the Episcopal incum- 
bent of Tain, professed his willingness to conform 
to the Presbyterian government of the Church ; but 
ths Presbytery of Ross* did not trust him sufficiently 
to admit him to sit in Presbytery with them. He 
held his incumbency, however, until 1700, when he 
was charged by the Presbytery with "errors, gross 
scandal, and supine negligence," and on his refusal 
in the circumstances to plead before that court, was 
summarily deposed. The Magistrates at first joined 
in a petition to the Privy Council on his behalf, their 
motive being, probably, one of mere compassion ; for 
when the case was reviewed by a special Conmiission 
of the General Assembly, and the Presbytery's sen- 

* After the Revolution, when Presbyterian ministers were few in 
number, a single Presbytery, meeting generally at Tain, had jurisdiction 
not only over Ross and Cromarty, but for a time also over Sutherland and 
even Caithness. 

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84 Pall cind Rebuilding of the Tower, 

tence set aside in form as irregular, but confirmed in 
substance by the re-deposition of Mr Ross, the very- 
same Magistrates took an active part in prosecuting a 
call to the young Presbyterian minister of Tarbat, 
Mr Hugh Munro, to be minister of Tain. 

This Mr Munro seems to have been both a good 
and able man ; and the Presbytery evidently attached 
importance to his translation to Tain, which took 
place in the year 1700, much to the displeasure of 
the people of Tarbat, who strenuously resisted the 
proceedings, taking occasion at the Presbytery to tax 
the Magistrates of Tain to their face with their recent 
support of the deposed curate. There is a curious 
tradition which affirms that the translation had to be 
carried out by downright physical force. A party from 
Tain, it is said, went out to Tarbat on the Sabbath 
day, and, actually taking the minister out of the 
pulpit, carried him in triumph to Tain, where they 
placed him in the Regent Moray's pulpit, to preach the 
sermon he was to have preached in Tarbat. I give 
the story as I have again and again heard it from 
intelligent persons. 

Now that we have got into the eighteenth century, 
let me gather a few incidents of various kinds, that 
may afford us glimpses of Tain and its people. In the 
year 1703, the steeple of the tolbooth was blown down 
during a stormy night, " to the great hazard of the 
lives of the prisoners, and considerable damage to the 

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How the Presbytery of Tain dealt with Witchcraft, 85 

contiguous church." On the petition of the Magis- 
trates, pleading the poverty of the town, the Privy 
Council ordained a collection to be made throughout 
the country for the reconstruction of the building; 
<}reditors being enjoined meanwhile to transport their 
prisoners to other jails. The General Assembly 
accordingly appointed a Sabbath for the collection, 
and the people of Tain voluntarily assessed themselves 
for the same purpose. Whether the new tower, which 
forms one of the most distinguishing features of our 
town, is after the pattern of its predecessor, we know 
not. But it is remarkable that there is an old tower, 
called the Eschenheim Tower, at Frankfort in 
Germany, so very like it, that one of the two must 
■apparently have been copied from the other. 

I have already spoken of the long prevalent belief 
in witchcraft. For more than 200 years the belief 
in this superstition was productive of terrible misery 
to many suspected persons throughout Europe, gene- 
rally poor old women, who were subjected to the most 
barbarous treatment, and finally burnt, on evidence 
that would be ridiculous in its insufficiency, were 
not the consequences to the wretched creatures so 
horrible. The Popish Church began these cruelties; 
and they were continued for a considerable time even 
in Protestant countries ; though undoubtedly evan- 
gelical principles, thoroughly applied, would have 
relieved men of those unreasoning fears of the Evil One 

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86 How the Presbytery of Tain dealt with Witchcrafts 

which prompted the cruelties. I am happj^to be able 
to show how one evangelical Presbytery, that of Tain, 
in the beginning of the eighteenth century, dealt with 
accusations of witchcraft. In 1713, a man in Kin- 
cardine became possessed with the idea that a woman 
there frequently dragged him out of his bed, to hunt 
him with cats, dogs, and other wild creatures, while 
at the same time depriving him of the power of 
speech to make known his sufferings ; and he em- 
ployed three men to administer an oath of purgation 
to the woman, imprecating all the curses of the Bible 
upon herself if she used any practices or bore any 
malice against him. Other persons, who had lost 
cattle, or other property, laid these evils to the charge 
of neighbours whom they suspected of malice against 
them, and of witchcraft ; and they forced all these 
suspected neighbours, by public citation given them 
on the Lord's Day, to meet together, and take a 
similar oath of purgation. The Presbytery declared 
this practice to be a horrid profanation of the Lord's 
most holy name, an acknowledgment of the Devil in 
afflictions which should be taken from the Lord's 
hand, and a cherishing of heathenish superstition ; — 
and entreated all their people, in the fear of the Lord,, 
not only to refrain from such practices, but to bear 
testimony against them in their several stations. A 
man in Portmahomack was charged with having, by 
advice of a woman there, struck a stroke with an axe 

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The Rebellion of 1715. 87 

on the face of the couple-tree as soon as his father 
expired, in order to prevent the spreading of the 
disease in his family. The Presbytery simply advised 
the session publicly to rebuke the parties. During 
the reign of James VI., or even of Charles II., the 
suspected persons would probably have been tortured 
into confessing themselves to be in league with Satan^ 
and then burnt. 

As the people of Tain had shown themselves in the 
sixteenth century zealous for the Reformation ; and in 
the seventeenth for the freedom of the Church and its 
government ; so now in the eighteenth we find the 
local feeling decidedly in favour of the Revolution 
Settlement, and of the Orange and Hanoverian Govern- 
ments. This feeling drew them into much Mendly 
intercourse with the Protestant, Presbyterian heads 
of the two clans in the immediate neighbourhood, Ross 
of Balnagown, and Munro of Foulis, and with the still 
more powerful Earl of Sutherland. General Ross of 
Balnagown was chosen Provost of the burgh in the year 
1716 — Lord Provost he is always styled in the records ; 
and the Magistrates placed his arms upon the steeple ; 
and he, on his side, " complimented the town with 1 00 
stand of arms." In 1715, the Town Council, consider- 
ing the rumours of confusion like to happen through- 
out Britain in consequence of the efforts of the 
Pretender, ordered the whole inhabitants to take arms, 
and appointed a nightly guard of ten men and a 

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88 The Forfeited Estates. 

captain to watch the town from eight o'clock at night 
to six in the morning. All men between 60 and 16 
years of age were called to rendezvous on the Links, 
and next day in the High Street, that they might 
receive orders from the Magistrates, so as to have the 
town in a posture of defence against any who might 
attempt to enter it to proclaim the Pretender — " as has 
most traitorously and rebelliously been done," say the 
records. The Magistrates at the same time requested 
the favour of Mr Hugh Munro, minister, to be the 
bearer of a letter to the Earl of Sutherland, thanking 
his lordship for his kindly advertisement to the town 
of the danger, and to assure him of their loyalty. At 
the same time they despatched 50 sufficient fencible 
men, under command of Hugh Ross of ToUie, with the 
best clothes and arms and four days' provisions, to 
march at once to Alness in order to join Capt. Robert 
Munro of Foulis, in defence of the present Government; 
and they sent Captain Munro a loan of as many stands 
of arms as the town could spare from its own defence. 
I cannot find that these Tain men were called to 
engage in any dangerous service; but at least they 
showed their willingness. 

After the suppression of the rebellion of 1715, a 
number of estates of Jacobite chiefs in the Highlands, 
being declared forfeited, were placed under commis- 
sioners authorised to collect the rents for the Govern- 
ment. As to some of these estates, and especially the 

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The " Battle of KintaiV 89 

immense territory of the Earl of Seaforth, from Brahan 
Castle to the island of Lews inclusive, the commis- 
sioners were for a long time entirely baffled. The 
Earl, on his banishment in 1715, had entrusted the 
management of the estates, no longer legally his, to a 
faithful retainer, Donald Murchison, ancestor of the 
celebrated geologist, Sir Roderick Murchison, and for 
ten years Murchison collected the rents from the 
tenants, and found means of transmitting them to Lord 
Seaforth in France. Not until 1720 did the commis- 
sioners find two men bold enough to undertake the 
stewardship of this Seaforth property, as well as of those 
of Grant of Glenmoriston and Chisholm of Strathglass. 
The two men both belonged to Tain — William Ross of 
Easter Feam, ex-Provost of the burgh, and his brother, 
Robert Ross, one of the Bailies. These factors, on 
sending notice to the Seaforth tenants, received for 
answer that they should never get anything from them 
but leaden coin ; and so it proved. The two Tain 
magistrates having set forth in person with 30 
soldiers, and with some armed servants of their own, 
for Kintail, were met in the heights of Strathglass 
by Murchison with 350 armed men under his 
command. The ex-Provost, Easter - Fearn, received 
two wounds from the musquetry of his opponents ; his 
son, Walter, was mortally wounded; and Bailie Robert 
Ross's son was also hurt by a bullet. The two youths 
were taken prisoners, and young Easter -Feam died 

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90 Political Feeling, 

next» morning. The battle was fought bravely on both 
sides ; but it ended with Easter- Fearn's giving up his. 
papers, and binding himself not to officiate in his 
stewardship any more, after which he gladly departed 
homewards with his companions, under an escort of 
Murchison's men to conduct them safely past a body 
of Camerons lurking in the rear. We need not with- 
hold our sympathy from either side in this struggle ;, 
we can sympathise with the Kintail men in their 
fidelity to their chief, while sympathising still more 
with the men of Easter Ross in their loyalty to the 
Protestant Government. 

In the rebellion of 1745 under the Young Pretender, 
the burgh of Tain was subjected, say the records, to- 
great distress and oppression for a time from a large 
body of the rebel army quartering therein, and making^ 
arbitrary demands for money under pain of military 
execution. The Magistrates were forced to make large 
payments ; but nothing further of special interest 
seems to have taken place here at that time. 

The political feeling of our burgh during last cen- 
tury being, from all these indications, sufficiently 
clear, we may ask — ^What was the religious feeling of 
the population ? We might answer this question from 
tradition, which has handed down every possible proof 
that the atmosphere of the place has, for several 
generations at least preceding ours, been religious 
after a decidedly evangelical and Puritan type. The 

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Religious Feeling. 91 

memories of our childhood have preserved the distinct 
tradition of the personal piety of each one of the 
ministers of Tain from the Revolution downwards,, 
with anecdotes illustrative of their individual disposi- 
tions, and of the popular esteem for them. Even the 
burgh records furnish historical evidence of this state of 
religious feeling. On the death of Mr Hugh Munro,. 
in 1744, the Magistrates exerted themselves to the 
utmost to procure a suitable successor to him in the^ 
ministerial charge. They elected Mr Daniel Munro, 
minister of Auldearn, of whom " they heard a uni- 
versal good character as a pious, godly, worthy man, 
which evidently appeared in his most excellent ser- 
mons preached in the town last Lord's Day," and they 
recommended to one another " to address all the legal 
elders, with the heads of families in the burgh and 
parish, so as, if possible, to have a call to him unani- 
mous and harmonious, and if any of the burgher 
inhabitants will give opposition, the Council will look 
on the same as very unkind and undutiful, and 
calculat allenarly to retard the settlement, as it is 
surmised there are base agents of . . . * to- 
make a party for a candidate he is to get up, 
with a view perhaps to divide, and then to set a 
non-jurist meeting-house man in this parish, as he has 
done in his neighbourhood, agreeable enough to his. 
own principles. The Magistrates and Council do there- 

* A non-resident heritor, who is named. 

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92 Religious Feeling, 

fore detest and declare against such principles and 
practices; and, to guard against the same, do in- 
stantly agree to call for the inhabitants to caution 
them against such intriguing, hurtful designs." They 
also resolved as a burgh to bear the whole expenses of 
the translation, so as to " forward a speedy, comfort- 
able settlement, and to prevent the abounding of sin 
and wickedness in this place, which has already grown 
to too great a height." The whole minute is drawn 
up with such evident heart and soul as to produce the 
impression that the author of it was not merely a staunch 
Hanoverian and Presbyterian, but an earnest Christian 
man. At each successive vacancy during the century 
it is evident that patronage was here practically 
powerless ; that the election was virtually in the ha^ds 
of the Magistrates and people, who, however, used every 
effort to obtain the concurrence of the patron, in order 
to secure the legal standing of the minister; the result 
being that unbroken succession of true evangelical 
ministers which I have already mentioned. Many of 
us know for ourselves how highly privileged the parish 
was in the end of last century, and the earlier part of 
this, with the ministry of two men, father and son, in 
succession, Drs Angus and Charles Mackintosh, whose 
deep-toned piety, theological attainments, weight of 
character, and preaching power, made their influence be 
felt wherever they were- known, and made Tain a 
rallying place for all the eminent ministers and 

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The Duel Hill, • 93. 

Christians of the North — a kind of religious centre, 
as in its earlier history, though after a very, different 

The traditions heard in boyhood have made us all 
very familiar with a sad event which took place early in 
last century. There is a sandhill in the Fendom with 
which is connected the tradition of a duel fought be- 
tween two neighbouring proprietors-Ross of Shandwick 
and Ross of Achnaclaich, who are said to have quarrelled 
at the time of a market. Achnaclaich was killed, and 
Ross of Shandwick, escaping on horseback, expatriated 
himself in Sweden. Bloodshed, it would appear, was 
not so lightly thought of then by the judicial author- 
ities as at the time of the previous homicide I have 
mentioned. The impression this event made on the 
popular mind is evidenced by the careful preservation 
and renewal, generation after generation, of the foot- 
prints of the combatants at the spot where they 
fought, and of the prints of the hoofs of the fugitive's 
horse on the moist ground as he galloped over what 
has ever since been known as " The Duel Hill." What 
man here does not remember the awe with which, as 
a boy, he looked on those deep-cut marks, while listen- 
ing to the story of the duel and of the flight ? 

The accounts of the Burgh Treasurer (which are 
happily extant from about 1720) furnish us with some 
rather curious information. First, as to the town's 
incoma In the year 1733, this was only £757 Scots,. 

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•94 The Mussel Scalps, 

or £63 sterling. It was expended chiefly in salaries 
to a drummer, a schoolmaster and schoolmistress, a 
music teacher, a clockmaster, three town-officers, the 
town clerk, and the treasurer. The Magistrates felt 
this income, which was derived almost wholly from 
rents and from customs of goods brought into market, 
to be too small, complaining frequently of the poverty 
of the town. About three years after this occurs the 
first entry of some revenue received from the mussel 
-scalps, amounting to £48 Scots, that is, £4 sterling. 
The Magistrates evidently saw in this sum, small as it 
was, a good beginning ; they ordered a new hat to 
Bailie Malcolm, " for his trouble in uplifting the scalp 
money," and they made special efforts to encourage 
the Moray fishermen to resort to this Firth for 
mussels. There is an entry of two bottles of wine drunk 
by the Council when "met to advise a method to 
induce the boats in the Moray Firth to come to the 
mussel scalps ;" and another entry of " drink to the 
Moray fishers on their first coming." Whether the 
drink had much to do with the matter or not, the 
revenue from this source rapidly increased : I wish I 
could say that it was always wisely expended. The 
increase seems at first to have induced the Council to 
waste a good deal of money in "treats." For example, 
there was a "treat" to Captain Tilmore and his 
soldiers at the time of Alexander Scollar's execution, 
when six bottles of claret and six of ale were drunk ; 

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Old Drinking Customs, 95 

another to David Munro, the town's agent, at which 
nine bottles of claret were drunk ; and there is an 
•entry of a dozen sherry, twenty-two pints of ale, and 
two glasses — it is not said of what — drunk on occasion 
■of a bonfire, by desire of Calrossie, on receipt of the 
news of the action of Dettingen ; and so on. Those 
times were evidently not better than the present in so 
far as official drinking was concerned ; and private 
townsmen followed the Magistrates' example. For 
instance, in July 1733, one John Macrae, who was 
settled in business here, took a strange way of showing 
his pride in a relative. Governor Macrae, a native of 
<xreenock, who had pleasingly startled the kingdom 
«ome years before by a gallant defence which he had 
made with his ship, the Cassandra, against two 
«trongly-armed pirate vessels near Madagascar. John 
Macrae, accompanied by the Magistrates of Tain and 
the principal burgesses, went to the Cross, and super- 
intended the drinking of a hogshead of wine, to the 
healths of the King, Queen, and Royal family, and of 
Governor Macrae and " his fast friends." From thence 
the company repaired to the chief taverns in town, 
where they repeated the said toasts, and spent the 
evening with " music and entertainments suitable to 
the occasion."* 

In connection with this free use of intoxicating 

* Cai«?<wwiu Mercury of the period, as quoted in Chamhers' " Domestic 
Annals of Scotland." 

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96 The Last Criminal Execution. 

drink, which all tradition tells us was in those days far 
more prevalent among the respectable classes of society 
than it is now, I may refer to a Gaelic rhyme, which I 
used to hear in childhood, giving a list of several Tain 
persons, some of them with very ridiculous nicknames,, 
handed down in it to posterity as 

" Na bodaich gbrach, 
Sior 51, 's ag iarraidh tuilje ;" 

that is, " foolish old bodies, ever drinking, and seeking 

Several of the Treasurer's entries at this period are 
of a melancholy character, being expenses connected 
with executions. I have already quoted one ; a second 
relates to the execution of John Don, in 1741 ; we find 
also, in 1762, a sum paid for erecting a new gibbet. 

There is a touching tradition connected with thia 
last execution, which was that of a poor servant girl^ 
condemned at the Inverness Circuit Court for child- 
murder. The popular pity seems to have been strongly 
moved in her behalf; and when it was observed that a 
pigeon flew round the gibbet during the time of the 
execution, and then lighted on her dead body, the 
opinion was confirmed that the sentence of death had 
been unjust. And so, adds the local saying, thia 
was the last execution that ever took place on the 
Gallow-Hill of Tain. 

As far back as we can distinctly trace, education 
seems to have been well attended to in this town. 

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Foundation of the Academy. 97 

After the Reformation, as we have already seen, several 
chaplainries in St Duthus were conferred on students 
in the form of bursaries. Early in last century, we 
find the Magistrates anxiously employed in looking 
out for a competent burgh schoolmaster to fill the 
place of one who had retired in consequence of ill 
health. Still later, we find salaries paid to a school- 
master, schoolinistress, and a music-teacher. Of the 
quality of the teaching given in the Grammar School 
in the latter half of last century, tradition distinctly 
speaks. Under a teacher of the name of Campbell, it 
was apparently very high ; and from his school not a 
few boys were sent forth into the world with classical 
afi well as other attainments that enabled them to 
shine, and to rise to honourable positions in life. Some 
of these pupils became afterwards chief promoters of a 
movement for raising the local education to a still 
higher point. 

In the first year of this century, a meeting of 
gentlemen connected with the Northern Highlands was 
held in London, under the presidency of the Earl of 
Seaforth, to initiate a movement for the erection and 
endowment of a High School or Academy at Tain. The 
declared object was to provide " for the youth of the 
three northern counties a good education, founded on 
morality and religion, such as might be expected to 
produce the happiest fruits to themselves, their 
parents, and connections, and contribute ultimately to 


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98 Politics of our Fathers, 

the improvement of the country which gave them 
birth, and to the general advantage of the kingdom." 
Tain was fixed on as the seat of the proposed Institu- 
tion, because the position of the town, on the borders 
of Ross and Sutherland, adapted it happily to benefit a 
very large portion of the Highlands, while its quiet 
and retired situation exempted it from many tempta- 
tions to which youth were exposed in large cities. 
The healthiness of the' locality, the populousness and 
fertility of the neighbourhood, and the cheapness of 
provisions were mentioned as additional recommendar 
tions. An influential committee, composed partly of 
noblemen and proprietors connected with the North, 
and partly of wealthy London merchants of northern 
extraction, was accordingly formed for the purpose, 
and they exerted themselves energetically to raise the 
necessary funds. Let me name one gentleman, Hugh 
Rose of Glastullich, himself a native of Tain (of which 
his father had been minister), and a pupil of its 
Grammar School, as the most energetic and successM 
promoter of the scheme. The Institution was opened 
with great tdaJt in the year 1813, and pupils of the 
upper and middle classes flocked to it at once, not only 
from the northern coimties, but from other parts of 
Scotland, and some even from England and the 
colonies. It became a powerful means of raising the 
standard of education in the whole North ; and it has, 
diuring the 70 years of its existence, sent forth a large 

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Religious Feeling of our Fathers, 99 

number of young men to distinguish themselves in 
ahnost every walk of life, and of ladies to adorn and 
bless many homes. 

We are now, then, fairly within the nineteenth cen- 
tury, and close upon our own times — too close to be 
able to proceed further with ease, for I must avoid even 
alluding to any persons now living. But I cannot con- 
clude without referring, however briefly, to events in 
which the political and religious feelings of the genera- 
tion immediately preceding ours became manifest -^ for 
to ignore these altogether would make the history awk- 
wardly incomplete. With reference to the political 
feeling of Tain in the days of our own fathers, the 
earliest recollection of some of us is how conservative 
that feeling was — howreligiously they honoured the King 
and his Government, and with what dread and dislike 
they regarded those who were " given to change." But 
when the Reform agitation began — ^when the prevalent 
corruption in Parliamentary elections, and the absurdity 
of the system that gave electoral rights to rotten and 
even non-existent boroughs, were exposed, the popular 
conscience here declared itself for reform, and the 
general feeling in favour of it became decided. Mj 
oldest political recollection is the enthusiasm exhibited 
in the town on the novel occasion of the election of a 
reforming member for the county. 

Some of us recollect equally well how conservative 
Tain, in our fathers' days, was in religious and ecclesi- 

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loo Tain at the Disruption of the Church. 

astical matters too ; how deep was the general 
reverence for things sacred; and how strong the 
attachment to the National Church. And yet, just 
because of that veneration for what was most sacred, 
the popular feeling in the district had again and again 
dared to resist even the Church in such matters as the 
forced settlement of ministers who did not commend 
themselves to the conscience of the people. And we 
remember how, amid all the hereditary and habitual 
attachment to Church and State, when the minister 
of Tain, in 1843, felt himself forced by conscience to 
abandon the advantages of State Establishment that 
he might continue free to obey the will of Christ, the 
people of Tain followed him in an almost unbroken 
mass — our town in this still representing, as of old, the 
general feeling of Easter Ross and of the Northern 
Highlands. On the first Sabbath on which the minis- 
ter and people met for worship in separation from the 
State, there was witnessed a sight here which was seen, 
as far as I am aware, only in one other burgh in Scot- 
land.* The Magistrates of Tain (as if it were a 
little State by itself) walked in procession, preceded by 
their red-coated halbert-armed officers, to take their 
places of honour opposite the pulpit, in the Free Church, 
as they had been long wont to do in the Church 
Established. And this they continued to do, Sabbath 
after Sabbath, until a hint was received from Edinburgh 

* Kirkcaldy. 

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Tain at the Disruption of the Church, loi 

that such an official proceeding was of questionable 
legality. Thereupon, the Magistrates discontinued 
the official, while continuing their personal, demon- 
stration of ecclesiastical prinQiple. 

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|N concluding these fragmentary notices, I 
cannot refrain from giving utterance to 
my feeling that few towns so small have 
as interesting and honourable a history 
to look back upon as ours. I own I am proud of my 
native burgh ; and a chief object which I have had in 
view in the preparation of these lectures has been to 
strengthen a similar feeling in the rising generation 
of my fellow townsmen, so as to stimulate them 
to emulate whatever deserves to be emulated in the 
actions of our forefathers; and to do what in them 
lies, besides, to maintain the character of their native 
place, and promote its welfare. Long may Tain be 
distinguished by such a spirit as was manifested by 
our ancestors at various epochs from the Reformation 
downwards — a. spirit at once conservative o^ what 
was good, and willing to reform what was corrupt ; 
a spirit reverently religious and submissive to rightful 
authority, yet enlightened to distinguish between true 
authority and false; and may an influence for real 
good thus ever emanate from our ancient town ! 

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Conclusion. 103 

May I be permitted to express my earnest wish 
for her continued and increasing prosperity? She 
has lost, indeed, peculiar advantages which she 
once had, and some of these she cannot hope to 
regain. She cannot hope for any new charter to restore 
her a monopoly of trade among the towns and villages 
beside her, nor can she expect or wish that superstition 
shoidd again draw royal pilgrims to her bounds. She 
cannot recover the territory of which the encroaching 
sea has robbed her, nor the natural beauties which the 
searsand on one side and the hand of cultivation on the 
other have removed. Yet she has important advan- 
tages still — a picturesque and healthy situation, a 
position not unfavourable for provincial trade, a fertile 
neighbourhood, a good municipal revenue, a beautiful 
and respectably endowed academy; and, along with 
these, she has beyond many towns the prestige of her 
past history to inspire her children with enthusiasm 
in her behalf, and to prompt them to zealous eflforts 
for her good — such enthusiasm as that which has 
recently restored and beautified her ancient, historic 
church. But not all of these advantages will insure 
her prosperity on any other terms than that energetic 
use be made of them by her own inhabitants. On their 
personal and collective character, and on their intel- 
ligence and enterprise, it must depend whether her rail- 
way, for example, will act as an open vein to drain 
away the life-blood of trade from her streets, or as an 

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I04 Conclusion, 

artery in which the pulse of commerce will beat more 
vigorously than ever. So also of our academy; it 
manifestly depends on the character of the instruction 
and training to be obtained within it, whether the 
railway will carry our youth away from it to pursue 
their studies elsewhere, or carry the youth of the 
respectable ranks of society from other places to be 
educated here. Do I dream in thinking that by 
a wise enlargement and modification of its plan to 
meet the ever-rising educational demands of the age, 
with such a generous increase of its endowments as is 
requisite for that end ; and by such intelligent earnest 
management as is necessary to keep alive the cordiality 
of public interest in it, it might be made in reality 
what it was originally designed to be by its energetic 
founder — the College of the North ? Then, again, in 
reference to the amenity of our town, it needs only, 
but it does need, a continued exercise of that good 
taste and public spirit which our Magistrates, to their 
honour, have shown in the beautifying and preserva- 
tion of the now narrowed links and in other improve- 
ments ; and it needs the hearty sympathy and gene- 
rous co-operation of the proprietors and occupants of 
lands all round the town, to replace the natural 
beauties we have lost with those which art can bestow; 
to give us, if not the old luxuriance of wild nature, at 
least the varied richness of cultivated fields and trees 
and hedgerows ; and if not the old freedom with which 

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Conclusion. 105 

in former days the youth of our place used to expatiate 
when and where they pleased, at least such agreeable 
combination of open and wooded walks, by sea-shore 
and winding river-bank, and from high-road across to 
high-road girdling the town, as would make it very 
fair to see and pleasant to live in. And, finally, while 
the faithfulness and even public spirit with which our 
municipal funds have for a good many years back 
been managed hardly admit of increase, this very fact 
encourages the hope that far-seeing wisdom and large- 
hearted comprehensiveness will characterise all their 
specific applications ; so that they may be devoted to 
purposes that will contribute to raise our burgh to a 
greater height of prosperity, usefulness, and honour 
than it has ever yet attained. 

I cannot conclude without casting a glance into a 
region of interest higher still. I could not have 
occupied so much time in the collection and prepara- 
tion of these materials for the purpose of encouraging 
a feeling of affectionate enthusiasm in behalf of our 
native town, had I thought that this was inconsistent 
with the pursuit of an inconceivably more important 
end. I have already remarked, that the man who 
loves his native town may be not the less a lover of 
his native land ; and not the less, let me now add, 
may he be a true subject of the kingdom of God and a 
citizen of heaven. There is a city that hath founda- 
tions, whose builder and maker is God. No sea of 

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io6 Conclusion. 

change will ever waste its territory, or sap its ever- 
lasting walls. Its chartered privileges can never be 
lost ; for they have been purchased with the blood of 
the Lamb. Its generations shall never be removed by 
death, nor their memory forgotten in the grave. Its 
inhabitants say not, " I am sick," for the people that 
dwell therein are forgiven their iniquity. In the daily 
routine of life, in the midst of private and public 
duties, each of us in our station, and not seeking to- 
pass beyond it, we may, through divine grace, be 
preparing for that everlasting habitation. He who on 
earth has never passed the bounds of his own loved 
native town, as well as he who embraces in his sphere 
of effort the wider interests of his country and of the 
world, may be living a life of faith, and treading a. 
path that brings him daily nearer God. 

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Note I. . 


Burgh has been unfortunate in the loss of 
charters, infeftments, and records ; so that its. 
great antiquity has been doubted, and its privi- 
leges questioned and assailed recently to its great injury. 
It may not be useless therefore to enumerate somewhat 
particularly the existing proofs of the antiquity of its. 
municipal and royal rights, beginning in the reign of 
James YI. and ascending in the inverse order of time. 

1. King James VI. granted two charters of " Novo- 
damus and Confirmation" to the burgh of Tain, both 
extant. The latter, in 1612, was given apparently for the 
purpose of specifying more exactly the property of the 
burgh ; but I content myself with an appeal to the earlier 
(10th January, 1587), translating the important preamble 
at full length : — " James, &c. : We understanding that 
our burgh of Tayne, lying within our county of Ross and 
our sheriffdom of Innemess, was by our most noble 
ancestors of good memory erected and constituted from 

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io8 Appendix, 

Ancient time with all and each of the liberties, privileges, 
<}ourts, markets, and other immunities appertaining to our 
free royal burghs ; and that although the inf eftments and 
charters of these things were by certain savages and re- 
bellious subjects of Ireland (as they are clearly evidencecL 
to us) cruelly consumed by fire, as is contained in authentic 
testimonies produced before us, nevertheless the provost, 
bailies, councillors, burgesses, and inhabitants of the said 
burgh, have in times long past observed and retained 
their ancient liberty of our free burghs, being enrolled 
within the rolls of our free burghs, by observing on their 
part the conventions of our Parliaments, the general 
conventions of our Estates, the annual conventions 
of the free burghs of our kingdom, and by paying 
And sustaining along with the other burgesses of our 
burghs their share of taxations, and of burdens with the 
other burgesses of our kingdom : Therefore," &c. Then 
follow the clauses of renewal and confirmation of all the 
property, privileges, and power of the burgh and its 
magistrates, "to be used and exercised as if the inf eft- 
ments of our said burgh had not been destroyed and 

2. This explicit royal testimony to the immemorial 
standing of Tain as a royal burgh is legally enough. Yet, 
observing that in earlier documents it is generally styled a 
town or immunity, rather than burgh, we have sought 
for an explanation of this fact. We find it in two con- 
siderations \—firsty that other places, undeniably holding 
the rank of burghs (, Inverness), were also sometimes 
■called merely towns, even in Acts of Parliament; and 
second, that the distinguishing and outstanding character 
of Tain, as the ecclesiastical girth and town of 8t Duihachy 
under which it was so famous before the Reformation, 
overshadowed its less peculiar, but not therefore less real, 

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Appendix. • 109 

character as a r(y\iQl town or burgh. Nevertheless, we do- 
find it occasionally designated, even in previous reigns, 9& 
a "burgh ;" its bailies also are mentioned, — and both in 
private deeds and in* official documents its inhabitants are 
styled burgesses —, in a decree of the Lords Auditors, 
in 1494, Stephen Raithsone is styled a burgess of Thane,, 
while in another decree, dated in the same year, mention 
is made of "the freedom of the burgh of Tain." There 
are no extant documents in which to look for much older 
documentary instances of this designation ; for the whole 
charters of the town were burnt in 1427. But 

3. The Inquisition of 1439, of which an ancient 
notarial copy is stiU extant in Inverness (probably the 
same that was lodged in answer to the Inverness men*s 
oomplaints against the people of Tain), testifies not only 
to the ecclesiastical sanctity of the town, but very ex- 
plicitly to its privileges as a royal immunity, traced 
back through Robert m., Robert 11., and David II.,. 
to its foundation by Malcolm Canmore — a testimony all 
the more important because of the presence in the jury 
(among the notables of the country) of several burgesses 
of Inverness, whom we cannot suppose to have been 
inclined to exaggerate, or to admit without good evidence, 
the high royal antiquity of a town of whose privileges^ 
they were jealous. Tain is not, indeed, in this document 
entitled a burgh, but an immunity, probably because 
its rights as an immunity were alone palpably threatened ; 
but since its privileges as a burgh are attested in the 
charter of James VI. to have been granted by his^ 
ancestors — and that monarch mentions no charter at 
all except those which had been burnt in the reign 
of James I., in 1427 — we are necessarily driven back 
to those burnt charters for the foundation and origin 
which we seek. And there is no reason whatever,, 

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no Appendix, 

and no manifest cause but historical scepticism, to 
lead any one to question the truth of the jury's declar- 
ation, that the royal privileges of the town, recorded in 
those lost charters, ascended to the famous Malcolm. For 
even if he was too illiterate, as some think, to have 
granted a written charter (though it is difiSicult to see what 
literature was requisite for that more than for founding 
the bishopric of Mortlach in these northern parts, as we 
know he did), there may, after the fashion of primitive 
times, have been a solemn and public unwritten act of 
royal constitution. But that such an act, whether written 
or unwritten, really took place (as the Inquisition of 1427 
43tates), I not only see no reason to doubt, but its truth is 
confirmed by such facts as the following, viz. : — 

4. Iiv Acts of the Scottish Paiiiament in which the 
towns of Boss-shire are named — e.^., in one of James IV., 
in 1503, as also in another in 1509, which create Boss into 
a separate shenffdom, and name Thane and Dingwall as 
the towns where the sheriff is to hold courts. Thane has 
precedence of Dingwall (just as, in other Acts, Inverness 
has of both) ; nor am I aware of any old Act of Parlia- 
ment in which this order of precedence is reversed. But 
Dingwall dates its constitution as a royal burgh from 
Alexander II., in 1227 ; so that the royal constitution of 
Tain, as I infer, must have been still older. Even this 
brings us to a time considerably earlier than the earliest 
of the kings stated in the Inquisition to have cor^firmed the 
privileges of Tain, and to within a little more than a 
hundred years after the time of Malcolm Canmore, by 
whom it states the privileges to have been first granted. 

Fifthly, and lastly, llie facts brought out in this 
«ssay as to the contemporaneousness of Malcolm with 
the saint whose name our town bears in (Gaelic, as to 
Malcolm's having come to this province for the purpose 

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Appendix, 1 1 1 

of establishing his own authority, and as to the part that 
had been taken by Munro of Foulis and his followers on 
Malcolm's side against Macbeth — all, taken together 
famish, I think, such an easy and consistent historical 
explanation of the origines of this town, and so unite 
in pointing to Malcolm's time, as strongly to confirm the 
finding of the Inquisition. 

On the following conjecture no stress is now laid ; but 
it is thrown out for future inquiry, since, should it prove 
well founded, it would furnish a curious confirmation both 
of this Note and of Note 11. In Torf seus's * * History of the 
Orkneys," as also in the "Orkneyinga Saga," mention is 
made several times of a town or market-town (oppiokmif 
^mporvariiy kaupstadr) in Scotland, called Dufeyra or 
Dufeyras, which was more than once visited by the 
Norsemen in the first half of the twelfth century, on their 
way from Orkney to Atholl, but whose exact position 
their unintelligible and apparently contradictory geo- 
graphical notices render it very difficult to determine. 
All that seems certain is, that it was on the southern shore 
of some sea between Caithness and Aberdeenshire. It 
has by some been supposed to be Banff, as situated at the 
mouth of the Deveron ; by others to be Burghead, in the 
parish of Duffus^ in Moray. But as it is mentioned in 
Apparent connection with Ekialsbakke (OyMebank, Strath- 
oykle, the banks or valley of the river Oykle, and of the 
Dornoch Firth, between Boss and Sutherland), it may 
rather be Dufey-Ras, or Dufey-Ros ; that is, Dubhthach, 
Dutho, or Du% of Ross — ^a frequent appellation, as we 
know, for Tain in ancient times. If so, this not only 
confirms Dr Reeves's date for St Duthach, but also shows 
the antiquity of Tain, as a town already belonging, in the 
first half of the twelfth century, to the kingdom of 

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Note II. 


lE^^^K Reeves's quotation, in his edition of the ''Life 
mS9i ^^ ^* Columba," of the important statement 
|ptiS«l| from the Irish annals which seems to throw so 
much new light on the history of St Duthach and of 
St Duthach's town, is as follows.: — a.d. 1065. Dubhthach 
Alhanach proRcipvAis confessarius Hibemioi et Albcm in 
Ardmacha quievit—i.e.y " Dubhthach of Albin (Scotland), 
the chief confessor of Ireland and Albin, died in Armagh, 
in the year 1065." See also M'Lauchlan's "Early 
Ecclesiastical History of Scotland." 

The inference that this Scottish Dubhthach of the 
eleventh century was the same with Duthach of Tain, 
is based not merely on the identity of the names (every 
one even slightly acquainted with Gaelic orthography, 
and with the dialectical varieties of pronunciation, sees 
that identity at a glance), but on the following additional 
considerations — viz., 1. On the improbability that there 
were two Scottish saints of that name in the middle ages, 
both famous throughout their native land, both having an 
intimate connection with Ireland and visiting it for re- 
ligious purposes, and both characterised by the same dis- 
tinctive appellation of confessor ; 2. On the fact noted by 
Dr Reeves, that the Irish date is alone consistent with the 
circumstance mentioned even in the Scottish legends re- 
specting Duthach of Tain, '' that in early life, moved by 

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Appendix, 113 

^vine grace, he crossed the channel to Ireland, and there 
learned most accurately the laws and precepts of the Old 
And New Testaments" — ^a circumstance, says Dr Keeves, 
which "would harmonise with Ireland's history in the 
eleventh century, and even until 1169, but which is hardly 
^consistent with the state of the country circ. 1220 ;" and 
3. On the consideration that the Irish date alone is con- 
sistent with the early history of Tain : synchronising 
exactly with the date assigned to the privileges of our 
town in our oldest documents, it explains those peculiar 
privileges ; and it accounts for the fact that the name Baile- 
Dhuthaich, and it alone, has been given by the Graelic 
population to our town from immemorial time. 

But lest the opinion that used to place St Duthach in 
the thirteenth century should stand in the way, I observe 
regarding it, that that opinion is not only founded on 
very inadequate evidence, but involves self-contradiction, 
■and is inconsistent with other historical facts. 

In the first place, the authority for it is utterly inade- 
quate. The only Scottish author who assigns an exact date 
for St Duthach, placing his death about 1253, is a man 
who wrote about 400 years later, Camerarius; while 
Leslie, who wrote in 1578, only says more generally that 
Duthach was the instructor of St Gilbert, who is known to 
have held high offices in the Church, as archdeacon of 
Moray and as bishop of Caithness, from 1203 to 1245. 
These two authorities are evidently far too late to be 
trustworthy, especially as there is not a shred of confirma- 
tory evidence of any kind : for St Duthach's name is not 
found in any way connected with the history of the thir- 
teenth century; neither does it occur in any contem- 
porary record or charter or document whatsoever* This 
argument has more than negative force ; for had a man of 
4such celebrity held a high office in the Church in that 

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114 Appendix, 

century of chartera and records, or even lived in it at all^ 
it is hardly credible that this should have been so. Of his 
alleged pupil St Gilbert of Dornoch, there are many 
authentic records ; even Robert, bishop of Ross, the 
assumed predecessor of Duthach, as also his assumed 
successor, a second (?) Robert, we find in contemporary 
documents, besides a large number of the contemporary 
clergy of the two dioceses of Ross and Moray, including 
Brydin, vicar of Tain ; but of the famous Duthach him- 
self not a. trace ! But, in the second place, it seems 
hardly possible to harmonise the authorities for the 
opinion, either with one another or with historical facts. 
Camerarius tells us that St Duthach, who died, according 
to him, about 1253 (earlier rather than later), was the 
intimate and revered friend of King Alexknder m., who 
used to receive the eucharist at his hands. But if so, the 
saint can hardly have died so early as 1253, for in that 
year Alexander was only eleven years of age. Yet, on 
the other hand, it is affirmed that St Gilbert, who was 
archdeacon of Moray so early as 1203, and who probably 
therefore was in holy orders considerably earlier, had 
been St Duthach*s pupil — a statement not reconcilable 
with the former, except by assigning to Duthach a long 
episcopate, or at least public celebrity as a religious- 
teacher, of upwards of fifty years, occupying at least the 
whole of the first half of the thirteenth century. But 
unfortunately for such a theory, contemporary evidence, 
as we have seen, proves that the name of the bishop of 
Ross in 1227 — in the very middle of the period — was 
Robert ; and that at that time the vicar of Tain was one 
Brydin : so that Duthach cannot at that date have been 
either the bishop of Ross or vicar of Tain. Thus between 
King Alexander, Bishop Robert, the Vicar Brydin, and 
Bishop Gilbert, St Duthach is tossed backwards and for- 

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Appendix. 115 

wards in the thirteenth century, until it becomes hard to 
find room for him within it at all. 

But if we simply identify Dubhthach with Duthach, 
as we have seen there are such strong positive reasons for 
doing, and at the same time retain Camerarius's date for 
St Duthach's translation (say 19th June, 1253), the origin 
of these unhistorical and contradictory statements is so 
easily explained that we need no longer trouble ourselves 
to reconcile them. It is easy to see how Camerarius (or 
his authority) would infer that the date of the saint's 
translation, for which he may have had documentary evi- 
dence, was also aih(mi the year of his death, which might 
therefore fall within the first years of the reign of 
Alexander ; how he inferred, further, in forgetfujness of 
Alexander's extreme youth (and misled possibly by some 
tradition or record of that king's having in his three 
months' annual residence in the north come sometimes to 
St Duthach's shrine), that the saint had ]3een the king's 
personal friend ; while again, since St Duthach was thus 
made partially contemporary with Bishop Gilbert of 
Dornoch, and was, moreover, said to have performed a 
miracle at Dornoch, it was inferred by others that Gilbert 
must have sat at the holy man's feet (though consistency 
as to dates would rather make him to have sat at St 
Gilbert's). So easily might the mythic history grow out 
of a single mistake. 

But, though not in the thirteenth century, may he not 
have been Bishop of Ross, as both Leslie and Camerarius 
say — or at least a Bishop, as TuUoch and the Aberdeen 
Breviary indefinitely designate him ? Not Bishop of 
Ross, if the Irish date is correct, for that bishopric was 
not founded until the twelfth century ; besides that, an 
apparently complete series of the bishops of that diocese 
frotn its foundation can be made out from their own 

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ii6 Appendix, 

signatures, or from contemporary documents in which 
they are named — in which series no Duthach is found. 
Nor yet probably was he a prelatic bishop at all ; for it 
does not appear that he is so designated in ordinary legal 
documents. He is generally styled simply '' Confessor," 
without the ''Bishop." So we find him designated, for 
example, in a legal document— a charter executed in his 
own town of Tain on the 16th May, 1486, earlier, there- 
fore, than the earliest of those legendary writings — by Sir 
Thomas Monelaw, who is there designated Tperpe^m 
vicarius villce dim cmifeasoris heati Duthaci de Tayne. 
This must be assumed to be a specimen of the regular 
legal style, in the absence of any instances to the 
contrary ; nor is there reason to regard the designation of 
bishop as more than a conjecture of the legendary 
writers, anxious to glorify the saint to the utmost by 
investing him with the highest ecclesiastical rank. 

The title confessarius given to Dubhthach Albanach in 
the Irish annals, seems to be equivalent to confessor, by 
which Duthach is described in Scottish official documents. 
In the middle ages it was certainly used, like confessor , to 
denote sometimes one who hears confessions, sometimes 
one who makes confession. The expression '' chief con- 
fessor of Ireland and Scotland," conjoined with Duthach's 
reputation as a pious man and learned teacher of 
Ohristianity, seems to me hardly to admit of any less 
important interpretation than that given to it in these 

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Appendix, 117 

Note III. 


jlY a new interpretation of the Royal Treasurer's 
entry of October 22nd, 1504 (quoted at p. 47), 
it has been lately maintained that King James 
rV. was bom in St Duthach*s Chapel at Tain. The true 
interpretation of the Treasurer's words seems to me, f» 
it seemed to the late learned and accurate Dr Lain^, to 
be, that St Duthach was bom on the site of the chapel 
afterwards built to commemorate the spot distinguished 
by that event And on more general grounds it seems 
highly improbable that, if the heir to the Scottish throne 
was bom in the far North, when his royal father was 
in the South, engaged in State affairs, the singular cir- 
cumstance should have escaped the notice of all historians. 
Besides, St Duthach's chapel had been many years in 
ruins at the time of James lY.'s birth ; — was he bom in 
the open air, like a gipsy's child, and that in the month 
of March ? It is recorded that intelligence of the birth 
of a beautiful boy, the heir to the throne, was brought to 
the king by a lady : natural enough ; but if the event 
took place in Tain, were there no officials in the North to 
undertake the mission ? or did they all allow themselves 
to be outstripped in speed by a woman ? Let who will 
believe all these improbabilities. 

In another part of this work will be foimd a woodcut 
of the ruins of '' ^Sanct Duchois Chapel, quhair he was 

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ii8 Appendix, 

Note IV. 


l^gnSHE architecture of this Church, which is mostly 
HES9 in the decorated English Gothic style, is in ac- 
JBSUI cordance with the general character of churches 
of the fourteenth century, from which it dates. Its 
windows must always have constituted its chief beauty. 
During the eighteenth, and the early part of this nine- 
teenth century, when architectural taste had fallen to the 
lowest point in Scotland, the building suffered mutilation 
after mutilation, and, being finally left uncared for, sus- 
tained every wanton injury at the hands of boys. But 
when attention was once fairly called to its condition, 
some of the inhabitants and natives of Tain began to 
feel the unseemliness of such a state of matters. This was 
not from any superstitious attribution of sanctity to the 
building — indeed, in so far as it had been originally Romish , 
the feeling of evangelical Protestants was the opposite. 
Yet the traditions of several generations, and the personal 
recollections of some who had themselves worshipped in it, 
invested it with very hallowed associations — of a kind 
analogous to those which one connects with a beloved 
father's or mother's grave, which it would be felt unnatural 
to allow to be uncared for, and to be overgrown with 
noisome weeds. So it is remarkable that when once 
attention was called by the remarks of strangers to the 
discreditable condition of the old church and its precincts, 

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Appendix, 119 

the desire for its preservation and restoration, and the chief 
eflfective efforts for these ends, were due mainly to Presby- 
terian evangelical feeling ; natives of the town, some of 
them resident in it, others living elsewhere, began to care 
for the place where they themselves, or their fathers, had 
listened to the pure Gospel of the grace of God, and had 
drunk in the words of eternal life. The first movement 
in this direction was made by the late Provost John 
Macleod, who took the practical step of collecting a 
sufficient sum to clear out the church and its precincts 
from the accumulated rubbish of years, and also to restore 
in the first instance the roof and buttresses of the 
building, so as to preserve it from further dilapidation. 
Thereafter the east window, which had suffered more 
barbarous treatment from adult tastelessness and boyish 
wantonness than any other part of the church, was ^ 
restored, after the exact original plan, by Mr A. B. 
Macqueen Mackintosh, son of Dr Angus Mackintosh, the 
last and one of the most eminent of the ministers who 
had ministered within the Church ; the other windows 
were similarly restored by other natives and residents of 
Tain ; the floor was subsequently paved with flagstones ; 
the Regent Murray's oaken pulpit was likewise restored ; 
and finally the i:estored windows were filled in with 
stained glass, beautifully designed and executed by the 
Messrs Ballantyne of Edinbui^h (who have kindly enabled 
me to give the following technically accurate descriptions 
of them). 

The east window is greatly admired for its lofty 
proportions and rich tracery. There are five main 
compartments above 15 feet in height, and these are filled 
with stained glass of elaborately foliated design, showing 
the pine, rose, lily, pomegranate, and apple, interwoven 
with appropriate central Scriptural passages. The whole 

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I20 Appendix, 

window glows with beautifully blended colour, wrought in 
a rich mosaic manner. It shows to most advantage when 
■eon in the morning by the light of an eastern sun. The^ 
traoery extends to 25 feet above the sill of the window, 
and 18 filled with the same rich glass surrounding a. 
centre-piece of the open Bible. Underneath is in- 
scribed : — ** Jw lonm/g memory of Angus Mackmtosh cmd 
his son Charles Colder Mackintosh, Ministers of Tain, 
1797-1853 f and upon gold mosaic, ^^ Blessed are the 
dead who dievnihe Lord,** The window is the gift of 
Mr and Mrs Macqueen Mackintosh of Hardington. 

n. The west window is of similarly lofty and graceful 
proportions ; it is subdivided into four main compart- 
ments, with tracery above. The design of the stained 
glass is of an historical character, suggested by the donor^ 
Mr Oeorge Macleod, by whom the stonework had been 
previously restored ; and may best be described by the 
inscription of the window, as follows : — " This Chwrdi wasr 
first used for the Reformed Worship when the Scottish 
Parliament of 1560 adopted the Confession of Faiih drawn 
up hy John Knox and his associates — Bohert More Mv/two, 
17fh Baron of F&wlis, and Nicholas Boss, Provost of Tain, 
amd Abbot of Fea/m, being the members present from Boss- 
shire, . The building continued to be used as the Parish 
Church witil 1815, amd was afterwards left unprotected and 
rv^/MMS for upwa/rds of forty years, when its restoration by 
puhUc subscription iwis undertaken and conducted untU 1877 
by John Ma^deod, Provost of Tain. In continuation of his 
efforts wnd to his memory this window has been placed by 
his son Oeorge Macleod, 1882." John Knox and the 
Reformers are seen confronting the nobles and prelates of 
the Scottish Parliament. The varied costumes, with 
characteristic heads, quaint interior, &c., form altogether 
a most effective and interesting historical work, in whick 

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Appendix, 121 

i;he religious and civil, the national and local, are happily 

Hr. Next the south door is the window ** Erected by 
Hugh La/w Bose, Esq. of Tarlogie, and his relatives, 1877,** 
There are three of the earlier scriptural subjects from the 
life of Christ — the Angels* Announcement to the Shep- 
herds, the Nativity, and the Presentation. The donor of 
this window is a great-grandson of one of the ministers of 

rV. In the centre of south side i& the window 
restored by the late Sheriff Taylor, and filled in with 
«tained glass by friends desirous to commemorate his 
public and private worth. There are four compart- 
ments, containing together the subject from Acts xiii. 
12, representing Sergius Paulus earnestly listening to 
the discourse of Paul, the dawning light of Faith seen 
on hia countenance. The window is thus inscribed — 
*^ To the honoured memory of Harry Munro Taylor, Sheriff 
Substitute of Boss, Cromarty, and Sutherland, Bom at 
Tain, Snd February, 1811 ; died at Tain, 9th Decentber, 
1876. He did justly, Urved mercy, a/nd walked hvmbly ^fJith 

V. The remaining window upon the south side was 
restored by the late Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies, 
Provost of Tain, and has been filled in with stained glass 
to his memory, and to that of other members of the Murray 
family intimately connected with Tain. The window is 
composed of three compartments arching into small trefoil 
and quatref oil tracery. The design is historical, and shows 
King Malcolm Canmore with his devout Queen Margaret 
conferring Royal Charter on the ancient dignitaries and 
inhabitants of Tain ; St Duthach (represented with book 
and|pastoral staff, as in the Burgh Arms) being shown in 
the left compartment, near the King. The inscription is — 

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122 Appendix. 

" Jn memory of WilMam Murray of Westfleld ai\d Bose- 
mount, Provost of Tain, died 1836 ; William Murray of 
CkanieSy elder son, died 1837; George Murray of Bosemo^int, 
younger so7i. Provost of Tain, died 18^8 ; William Hugh 
Murray of Geanies, grandson. Provost of Tain, died 1867 ; 
Kenneth Murray of Geanies, grandson, Provost of Tain, 
died 1876 " 

VI. Upon the north side of the Church are three 
separate small windows, one of which has been filled in 
with an illustration of the Parable of the Talents, and i& 
inscribed — " Katherine and William Clark, bom in Tain, 
died m Canada. Erected by their brothers Angus and Jam,e» 
Clark, Toronto." 

These restorations and adornments have all been 
executed on an understanding with the heritors of the 
parish — ^many of them, indeed, on the faith of an expresa 
resolution formally passed by the heritors — to the eflfect 
that the building should be devoted, in time coming, ta 
monumental purposes, with the view of making it (I quot» 
the expression used by the promoters of the object) 
** the Valhalla of Ross-shire." A brass tablet below the 
west window records this destination. Several private 
monuments had already existed within the Church, and a 
happy commencement of its employment for more public 
and truly historic monimiental purposes has been made by 
the recent erection in it, by public subscription, of a double 
monument, in memory of Patrick Hamilton, the Martyr 
Abbot of Feam, and of Thomas Hog, the covenanting 
minister of Kilteam, one of Tain's most honoured sons. 
It is placed just beneath the east window, and beautifully 
completes that end of the Church. The design is Gothic of 
the sixteenth century ; the length is 16 feet, and tjie height 
7 J feet. At the sides the pilasters are ornamented with 
Gothic panels ; beside the pilasters are octagon columna 

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Appendix, 123. 

with capitals of natural foliage. The top is finished with 
cusping in crochets. The base is hung into the wall, and 
is supported by three corbels. The design was furnished 
by Mr T. W. Small, architect, Edinburgh, and the work 
executed and the monument erected by Mr Robert 
Thomson, sculptor, Edinburgh. In the left panel, carved 
in a large white marble slab, is th^ following : — ** Patrick 
Hamilton, the youthful Abbot of the Monastery of Feam, 
it/ear Tain: of noble extraction, and allied to Royalty , learned 
and full of faith, he ivas the first preacher of the Reformation 
in Scotland, and the fi/rst to seal its doctritie by a martyr^s 
death, being burned at the stake in St Andrews, 28th 
February, 1528, * His reek,^ it was said, * infected as many 
as it did blow upon,* His principles quickly spread over 
Scotland, their influence was felt in the neighbourhood of his 
Monastery, and was early arvd decidedly manifested within 
these walls, where tkis tablet is erected to his memory." In the 
right panel, on a similar slab, is the following :— " Thomas 
Hog, that great and almost apostolical servant of Christ, was 
bom at Tain, A,B, 1628; became minister of Kilteam in 
1658 ; was ejected thence for loyalty to Christ's C^'oum and 
Covenant in 1662 : waiidering, intercommwned, imprisoned, 
exiled, he ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ — by his 
holy life and doctrine wirming many souls for his Lord, In 
exile he won the friendship of King William III., then 
Prince of Orange, who consulted him on Scottish affairs, 
Restored to his parish in 1690, he died there m 1692. This 
tdhlet is erected to his memory unthin the walls where in 
youth he worshipped," 

Altogether, St Duthus Church may be regarded a» 
a most interesting and now very beautiful historical 

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the Library on or before the last Jati^ 
stain pod below. 

A fiiio of f(vo c.&iU^ a dnjr is jiionrrpd 
by rotainiu^ it lioyond th*> spocified 


PloflBo roiiirn pmniprK'.